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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
The Meaning of Everything The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary Author:Simon Winchester From the best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa comes a truly wonderful celebration of the English language and of its unrivaled treasure house, the Oxford English Dictionary. Writing with marvelous brio, Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language--'so vast, s... more »o sprawling, so wonderfully unwieldy'--and pays homage to the great dictionary makers, from 'the irredeemably famous' Samuel Johnson to the 'short, pale, smug and boastful' schoolmaster from New Hartford, Noah Webster. He then turns his unmatched talent for story-telling to the making of this most venerable of dictionaries. In this fast-paced narrative, the reader will discover lively portraits of such key figures as the brilliant but tubercular first editor Herbert Coleridge (grandson of the poet), the colorful, boisterous Frederick Furnivall (who left the project in a shambles), and James Augustus Henry Murray, who spent a half-century bringing the project to fruition. Winchester lovingly describes the nuts-and-bolts of dictionary making--how unexpectedly tricky the dictionary entry for marzipan was, or how fraternity turned out so much longer and monkey so much more ancient than anticipated--and how bondmaid was left out completely, its slips found lurking under a pile of books long after the B-volume had gone to press. We visit the ugly corrugated iron structure that Murray grandly dubbed the Scriptorium--the Scrippy or the Shed, as locals called it--and meet some of the legion of volunteers, from Fitzedward Hall, a bitter hermit obsessively devoted to the OED, to W. C. Minor, whose story is one of dangerous madness, ineluctable sadness, and ultimate redemption. The Meaning of Everything is a scintillating account of the creation of the greatest monument ever erected to a living language. Simon Winchester's supple, vigorous prose illuminates this dauntingly ambitious project--a seventy-year odyssey to create the grandfather of all word-books, the world's unrivaled uber-dictionary.« less
This book was every bit as much fun as I'd hoped it would be, most focused on the OED from its inception in 1857 through first complete publication in 1928. Purposes and goals, compilation of information, obstacles, personalities... all woven in a well-told easy read. Winchester also gives some background on dictionary development, more interesting than you might think; OED's supplements, 1989 second edition, and ongoing updates even now; plus bibliography and good index. Reads like a novel, but I'll keep it on my reference shelf.
A surprisingly engaging look at the men who labored for over 70-years without the aid of computers to produce the Oxford English Dictionary, a 12-volume beast originally published in 1928. A "Revised Edition" yet to be published may be as large as 40-volumes and weigh as much as a sixth of a ton. "Each printing would consume a sizeable acreage of woodland. The environment would be affected, significantly." Perhaps then, it will only see life on the Net. A great read for those who love the English language.
Jody T. (jody102) - reviewed The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary on
Helpful Score: 1
A fascinating "listen" for any student of English who is interested in etymology and the history of the OED. Includes numerous details and anecdotes on the dictionary making process, various eccentric editors of the dictionary, and their efforts to cultivate public participation in the project which spanned over a half century.