The Meaning of Everything

The Meaning of Everything

The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

Book - 2003
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It was on New Year's morning, 1928, that an eruption of mad lexical glee from a battered old typewriter on a desk in Baltimore from the hands of Henry Louis Mencken sent news all across the USA of the long-awaited publication of the book that was to crown the English language undisputedmonarch of the linguistic kingdom. From the Oxford-based project a total of 414,825 words, ten times as many as had hitherto been suspected of existing, had now been recognized and catalogued, the results of seventy years of Herculean effort by scholars, linguists, and thousands of ordinary andnot-so-ordinary people. The Meaning of Everything is a readily accessible historical account of the making of the remarkable Oxford English Dictionary, leading up to the appointment of the first editor, James Murray, in 1879 through to its triumphant publication in 1928 and beyond. Brought to life by Simon Winchester'scharacteristic talent for story-telling, the achievement of making the dictionary is an unforgettable story, and is further enlivened by portraits of the myriad characters involved in its creation. From the context of early dictionaries and national projects of the Victorian Era, Simon Winchester leads his narrative through early attempts to create what was then expected to be a four-volume dictionary, the appointment of James Murray as editor, the unusual, never-before-attempted way in whichthe book was constructed, and the people and processes involved in the definition of thousands of words, to the triumphant publication of the dictionary and its adaptation to the age of technology.The profound impact the volumes had when they first appeared, the fame the dictionary has had in the eight decades since, and that it can be expected to have in years to come, receive full and fascinating treatment here at the pen of the best-selling author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne and The MapThat Changed The World.
Publisher: Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2003.
ISBN: 9780198607021
0198607024
Characteristics: xxv, 260 p. :,ill. ;,23 cm.

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doroschelch
Aug 24, 2012

Erudite Mr. Winchester at his best: in the company of men and women just as educated and well-read as himself. He manages to write about seemingly dry subjects, as for example the compiling of a dictionary, in a way that you do not want to put down the book!

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zipread
Jul 19, 2011

Winchester is not afraid of being overwhelmed by gargantuan topics. His first book “The Map that Changed the world” was a big fat many=paged thing that proved to be delight to read. Then Winchester moved on to take something yet larger --- the whole Atlantic Ocean. And now he has taken dead aim at what could be his most ambitiously huge topic yet. It took 71 years to complete; it cost a mere 365,000 British pounds to produce; it has been called “the greatest literary enterprise in history”; it has been deemed “superbly authoritative”; and charged with “lexical infallibility”. The Oxford English Dictionary.
How it came to be. Who put it together. Who read for it and wrote it. The politics that almost derailed it and then later saved it.
And Winchester writes about it as only he can. The book will stretch you vocabulary as would the OED. But it will be a good work-out and you’ll be the better for it.

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