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

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

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 wonderfullyFrom 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 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 d

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

  1. Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publications including Cond Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic In 1969, Winchester joined The Guardian, first as regional correspondent based in Newcastle upon Tyne, but was later assigned to be the Northern Ireland Correspondent Winchester s time in Northern Ireland placed him around several events of The Troubles, including the events of Bloody Sunday and the Belfast Hour of Terror.After leaving Northern Ireland in 1972, Winchester was briefly assigned to Calcutta before becoming The Guardian s American correspondent in Washington, D.C where Winchester covered news ranging from the end of Richard Nixon s administration to the start of Jimmy Carter s presidency In 1982, while working as the Chief Foreign Feature Writer for The Sunday Times, Winchester was on location for the invasion of the Falklands Islands by Argentine forces Suspected of being a spy, Winchester was held as a prisoner in Tierra del Fuego for three months.Winchester s first book, In Holy Terror, was published by Faber and Faber in 1975 The book drew heavily on his first hand experiences during the turmoils in Ulster In 1976, Winchester published his second book, American Heartbeat, which dealt with his personal travels through the American heartland Winchester s third book, Prison Diary, was a recounting of his imprisonment at Tierra del Fuego during the Falklands War and, as noted by Dr Jules Smith, is responsible for his rise to prominence in the United Kingdom Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Winchester produced several travel books, most of which dealt with Asian and Pacific locations including Korea, Hong Kong, and the Yangtze River.Winchester s first truly successful book was The Professor and the Madman 1998 , published by Penguin UK as The Surgeon of Crowthorne Telling the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the book was a New York Times Best Seller, and Mel Gibson optioned the rights to a film version, likely to be directed by John Boorman.Though Winchester still writes travel books, he has repeated the narrative non fiction form he used in The Professor and the Madman several times, many of which ended in books placed on best sellers lists His 2001 book, The Map that Changed the World, focused on geologist William Smith and was Whichester s second New York Times best seller The year 2003 saw Winchester release another book on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Meaning of Everything, as well as the best selling Krakatoa The Day the World Exploded Winchester followed Krakatoa s volcano with San Francisco s 1906 earthquake in A Crack in the Edge of the World The Man Who Loved China 2008 retells the life of eccentric Cambridge scholar Joseph Needham, who helped to expose China to the western world Winchester s latest book, The Alice Behind Wonderland, was released March 11, 2011 source

433 Reply to “The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary”

  1. I can t recommend this enough Fascinating, humor full and very readable You wouldn t think this would be funny, but it is I mean laugh out loud funny Maybe I m a complete nerd but this is fascinating and fun and full of things you don t need to know The people who contributed to the dictionary are truly interesting I loved hearing about word origins and how they fit into the dictionary I wish Winchester would write on this topic I ve fallen in love with his writing style which sounds to me as t [...]


  2. Simon Winchester s wonderful book on the making of the most venerable authority on the English language is a delightful story I have enjoyed both the hard copy and the CD read by the author.


  3. I would have liked to have given this a better rating, but at times the book was just so dull Winchester wrote another book about the making of the OED and perhaps all of his passion was put into that one See The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English DictionaryNear the end, chapter 7 Winchester explores why so many people helped out with the making of the OED when their only reward was perhaps footnotes in the dictionary Since he wrote this book [...]


  4. A few years ago I read the The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, and through the first few chapters of this book I was like, Is this by the same guy I m sure that was by Simon Winchester too it was This book is the whole story the big picture of the creation of the OED, a project that was much bigger than the professor or the madman, and outlived them both It is a grand tale of a grand dream, conceived in an era of wide knowledge [...]


  5. 2 1 2 stars, really There s a reason I ve taken at least a week to get to this summary It s been hard to bring myself to find something to say about it beyond a resounding meh It s sad that this book hasn t much to recommend itself as a standalone history of the Oxford English Dictionary or as a complement to Winchester s earlier The Professor and the Madman, parts of which this book reuses and the whole of which it takes a short seven pages to recap But then, this is a short book I got the sens [...]


  6. I read this in airports and airplanes, while exhausted beyond words, so my thoughts are not in order Sue me.Maybe 3.5 stars I found this a little dry at first, but warmed up to it about halfway through The Oxford English Dictionary truly is an amazing achievement, and the 70 year history of its first incarnation is astonishing This book renewed my admiration for the OED, and made me wish all the strongly that I owned a copy Many fascinating anecdotes to be found here My favorite being the appar [...]


  7. In The Surgeon of Crawthorne, or The Professor and the Madman as it is sensationally titled in the States, Winchester makes the point that the book has two protagonists However, any fair reading of that book would have to say that really there is only one protagonist and that is Dr Minor The other protagonist that Winchester alludes to is James Murray the man, than anyone else, responsible for the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary.This book has only one protagonist and that unquestio [...]


  8. After I told my husband that I finished this book, he asked how it was I said It was kind of boring And he looked at me and said, Annette, it was a history of the dictionary What did you expect So um Yeah.Moral of the story You can stab women and still have a big vocabulary.


  9. This is a most enjoyable book The making of the first edition of the OED is surprisingly filled with event The gigantic task took a lifetime and survived four editors before it was finally concluded The first editor, Herbert Coleridge a grandson of the poet died just after he took up the position He was followed by Fredrick Furnivall who took up the job with intense enthusiasm and then lost interest neglecting the task to such an extent that the project was nearly cancelled Fortunately he suppor [...]


  10. I m disturbed by the current trend of history authors focusing on the biographies of the inviduals involved in a project rather than the ideas behind it Have we as readers convinced them we are that voyeuristic Is the People magazine approach to intellectual history the only thing that sells these days Or do hardcore fans simply become so enad of the figures who made it all possible that they cannot resist the urge to delve into the personal This would be understandable if an author like Winche [...]


  11. This is exactly the kind of thing I love You have a grand story of real human endeavor and achievement the inception and construction of the first Oxford English Dictionary filtered through the lens of the very human characters involved in its construction and the outrageously difficult, outlandishly remarkable one man contributed enormous amounts from inside an insane asylum , and everything in between You get huge doses of history of language, of dictionaries, of England itself and large smatt [...]


  12. I read this book for a class on the history and development of the English language Fascinating story of the creation of the O.E.D Have you ever wondered why we have dictionaries and who decides what goes in them What about which dictionary to use what does that say about you This book sparked an interest in dictionaries in America to be clear, the book is centered on England and how the American English variant was legitimized by the Webster s dictionary I ended up presenting my research at PAM [...]


  13. Not for everyone, but word nerds will enjoy It reads like a 700 page book so at points I just had to skim too many lists It does make me curious about The Professor and the Madman which sounds like it may be a much interesting read Filled with truly gem like details my favorite that Julian Barnes was one of the unsung wordsmiths who worked on the editing of the revised edition.


  14. How embarrassing I recommended this for our book club based on its reviews, and the fact that it s about the dictionary We re all word lovers, of course we re going to love this book Right No one liked it The words most often used were boring and dry Very disappointing I yelled this like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, when he finds no diamonds in the safe Then I threw the book across the room.


  15. A quite lovely little dip into OED history This is one of Winchester s enjoyable books, probably because it s shorter and less long winded But I did find gaps in some of his historical descriptions of people and events surrounding the OED, and thought he could have fleshed out and organized things just a bit better Still, quite a fun read and I d recommend it.



  16. This was fun and readable despite partly because of a writing style appropriately stuffy for the topic at hand I enjoyed the first couple of chapters the most, especially the parts on the history of dictionaries and lexicography in general The daunting logistical issues posed by the project were also fascinating so many problems that simply don t exist any , like how do I organise these millions of little handwritten slips or how do I keep copies and keep track of all this voluminous daily corre [...]


  17. I ve always wondered what some of the first crowd sourced add that word to the OED please efforts were in the world Though not completely open like , the OED must be one of the first due to the efforts of thousands worldwide contributors Yet, the words of the English language were funneled through the OED editors but, it couldn t have been produced without the world s help This was an enjoyable ride into the history of the Oxford English Dictionary from beginning to end Winchester really brings [...]


  18. bookslifewine r the meaninFor English is a language that simply cannot be fixed, nor can it ever be absolutely laid down It changes constantly it grows with an almost exponential joy It evolves eternally its words alter their senses and their meanings subtly, slowly, or speedily according to fashion and need Dictionaries that record and catalog the language cannot ever be prescriptive they must always be entirely descriptive, telling of the language as it is, not as it should be P29I love words, [...]


  19. Thoroughly loved this book for the most part It was written with Simon s unique ability to make mundane information interesting and fresh I do admit that I enjoyed the other book by him on this subject, The Professor the Madman I m glad to have read both though since they cover multiple topics and bring the story together When I read a book like this it makes me wish that I had a love of words and the mind to learn multiple languages easily as so many people involved in the OED were I realize th [...]


  20. I did really enjoy the subject matter of this book, but the writing was too dry, it felt like I was reading If you are interested in the subject I still recommend The Mother Tongue English and How It Got That Way and maybe The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary


  21. I have always loved dictionaries I could not keep track of the names people in this book but continued reading without really caring It is so beautifully written it is clear the author loves the English language If you have any interest in the OED or how the first dictionary was compiled, I recommend this book


  22. Amazing to think of putting together the OED in the days before computers SW obviously loved his topic and loved big words I felt I needed the dictionary on hand to look up several words per page It was accessible but still very academic and I could only read a few pages at a time.








  23. Our histories, our novels, our poems, our plays they are all in this one book The OED or The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the great works of the literary world To catalog and define the largest language that has ever existed was no mere trifling Work began in 1857 and completed in 1928 Tracing the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world i [...]


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