Oxford Dictionary to Correct 99-Year-Old Mistake

The Oxford Dictionary will correct a 99-year-old mistake after a tip-off from a Queensland physicist, The Courier-Mail reported Tuesday.

Dr. Stephen Hughes, a physics lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, discovered the definition of "siphon" was wrong while writing a paper on how the devices work.

Since 1911, the Oxford English Dictionary has incorrectly stated atmospheric pressure is the force in a siphon when it is actually gravity.

Siphons are commonly used to empty containers like petrol tanks.

"An extensive check of online and offline dictionaries did not reveal a single dictionary that correctly referred to gravity being the operative force," Hughes said.

"My initial reaction was shock. I just stood there like a stunned mullet thinking how can this be?"

He e-mailed the editors at Oxford, who said they will correct the mistake.

Oxford Dictionary spokeswoman Margot Charlton said the definition was written in 1911 by "editors who were not scientists."

"Our files suggest that no one has queried the definition (since 1911)," she said.