James Gleick on being cited in the OED.


It's the title of the writing in the link.

I want to know what 'on' means exactly in the sentence.

I think, according to context, it is used to express 'an occasion' when the word he used was registered in OED, but my friend insists differently that in this case it seems to mean similar to 'about' or 'regarding'.

However, I think it means more similar to 'on' as in this sentence, "On arriving at home, my dog ran out to greet me vigorously", or it could mean both all at once.


Your friend is correct. You might hear reporters ask,

What are your thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis?

Here, "on" means "regarding."

But we can leave off the "thoughts" when reporting what someone else said/wrote about a topic by simply naming the person and adding "on". I think this construction is what some would consider "headline English," shorter constructions that may not technically be grammatically correct. The blog title is the same as,

James Gleick's thoughts on being cited in the OED.

Another example of this would be the infamous,

Trump on McCain: 'He's a war hero because he was captured'

Its meaning is, "Trump's statement on McCain".

  • I'm feeling that on is more of formality than about when it comes to indicating a subject. Do you agree with me on it ?
    – GKK
    Sep 25 '18 at 22:11
  • It's not a matter of formality. If you are talking about some writing (eg an article) you can use either: an article about ... , an article on ... But if you're talking about the author, you can only use "on": James Gleick on ....
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 25 '18 at 23:36

It means that James Gleick is speaking or writing about being cited in the OED. (In this case, we know it means writing, since it's a blog.)

The relevant definition in the OED of "on" (preposition) is 25 c.:

c. Indicating the subject of speech, writing, etc.; Also after the name of an author, etc., with authorship implied.

This is related to how a lot of academic article titles start with "on" (see this ELU Question).

(Why I haven't found this definition in other dictionaries I've checked remains a mystery.)

  • Then, what if he was being cited by a person from OED in fact ? Though somewhat sounding ridiculous, can it mean what I'm thinking?
    – GKK
    Sep 25 '18 at 22:18
  • @EvaristeGalois: I don't understand the question in your comment.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 25 '18 at 23:34
  • @EvaristeGalois it could be that he was cited, and that's what he's writing about. It could also be that it hasn't happened to him, and he's writing about it in general. Sep 26 '18 at 0:19
  • 1
    @EvaristeGalois If you're referring to the sense of "on" in "on arriving at home", there would need to be mention of something that happens immediately afterwards plus some commas (as in: "James Gleick, on being cited in the OED, wrote a blog post"). However, because there's not, it's pretty obvious (to native speakers at least) the definition quoted in my answer is correct.
    – Laurel
    Sep 26 '18 at 0:58

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