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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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, so 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 that 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 unrivalled uber-dictionary.

Review:

"If you liked The Professor and the Madman, here's more. Fans and acquaintances of the OED will certainly enjoy this book, as will anyone who enjoys words. For instance, did you know that the combination of question mark and exclamation point is called an "interrobang"? Once more Winchester has taken a subject that might appear dry and breathed life into it." Doug Brown, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)

Synopsis:

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, so 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 unrivalled uber-dictionary.

Synopsis:

Simon Winchester delivers an account of the seventy-year odyssey and key players behind the making of the unrivalled Oxford English Dictionary.

About the Author

Simon Winchester was a geologist at Oxford and worked in Africa and on offshore oil rigs before becoming a full-time globe-trotting foreign correspondent and writer. He currently lives on a small farm in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, an apartment in New York's West Village and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Table of Contents

Prologue
Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations
1 Taking the Measure of it All
2 The Construction of the Pigeonholes
3 The General Officer Commanding
4 Battling the Undertow
5 Pushing through the Untrodden Forest
6 So Heavily Goes the Chariot
7 The Hermit and the Murderer — and Hereward Thimbleby Price
8 From Take to Turndown — and then, Triumphal Valediction
Epilogue
Bibliography

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

New Jersey reader, December 24, 2010 (view all comments by New Jersey reader)
Simon Winchester relates the fascinating history of the OED, from the proposal that started it in 1857, through the publication of the first edition in 1928, the 2nd edition in 1989, and the on-going work for the 3rd edition.
The book also reviews prior lexicographic history, including Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary, and Noah Webster's 1828 American version, among others.
The main part of the book is the story of James Murray, who spent the last 37 years of his life supervising the vast amount of work leading to the 1928 first edition. With our understanding and dependence on modern technology, it seems incredible that this huge reference work could ever have been created with the primitive pencil & paper tools that Murray had available.
Winchester's writing is clear and to-the-point, and provides vivid images of all the major and some of the minor players in the dictionary saga, as well as accounts of the various crises that threatened the work's completion.
Reading this account is great fun, and gives a real insight into the process of constructing a book that attempts to explain "the meaning of everything".
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

ISBN:
9780195175004
Subtitle:
The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
Author:
Winchester, Simon
Author:
null, Simon
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Subject:
Great britain
Subject:
English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
History, World | British | 19th C
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
3
Publication Date:
20041014
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
30 b/w illus.
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
5.300 x 7.900 in 0.488 lb

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Related Subjects

» Biography » Literary
» History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History
» History and Social Science » World History » England » General
» Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
» Rare Books » General
» Reference » Books on Books

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary Used Trade Paper
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195175004 Reviews:
"Review" by , "If you liked The Professor and the Madman, here's more. Fans and acquaintances of the OED will certainly enjoy this book, as will anyone who enjoys words. For instance, did you know that the combination of question mark and exclamation point is called an "interrobang"? Once more Winchester has taken a subject that might appear dry and breathed life into it." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Synopsis" by , 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, so 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 unrivalled uber-dictionary.

"Synopsis" by , Simon Winchester delivers an account of the seventy-year odyssey and key players behind the making of the unrivalled Oxford English Dictionary.
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