The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
Posted: 11 January 2017 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]
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New book from OUP which goes to the head of my wish list.

This book tells the history of the Oxford English Dictionary from its beginnings in the middle of the nineteenth century to the present. The author, uniquely among historians of the OED, is also a practising lexicographer with nearly thirty years’ experience of working on the Dictionary He has drawn on a wide range of sources—including previously unexamined archival material and eyewitness testimony—to create a detailed history of the project. The book explores the cultural background from which the idea of a comprehensive historical dictionary of English emerged, the lengthy struggles to bring this concept to fruition, and the development of the book from the appearance of the first printed fascicle in 1884 to the launching of the Dictionary as an online database in 2000 and beyond. It also examines the evolution of the lexicographers’ working methods, and provides much information about the people—many of them remarkable individuals—who have contributed to the project over the last century and a half.

Salivating as I write. (I know, too much information!)

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Posted: 11 January 2017 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s on amazon for just under £27, kindle edition £26.  It sounds fascinating.

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Posted: 11 January 2017 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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This book tells the history of the Oxford English Dictionary from its beginnings in the middle of the nineteenth century to the present.

I’m curious, how many more books have been written on the Oxford English Dictionary and how much more information can be learned from another book on the making of the OED?

I thought Jonathon Green’s (also an English lexicographer) Chasing the Sun was quite informative on the makers of all dictionaries and an extensive chapter on the OED.

There is also K.M. Elisabeth Murray’s (James Murray’s granddaughter) Caught in the Web of Words, which I thought a rather fascinating biography of James Murray and the making of the OED.

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Posted: 12 January 2017 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Given the price and the fact that it is from OUP, this looks to be a more scholarly and rigorous approach to the topic than the other books. Using Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book” feature shows that it has extensive notes, both source and discursive. Those other books are excellent, but this looks to be more comprehensive and a deeper dive.

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Posted: 12 January 2017 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just availed myself of the Amazon Look Inside feature mentioned by Dave and the book does indeed look to be an impressively researched work. Interestingly in the first chapter it mentions that the ‘new philology’ just starting to bear fruit in Continental Europe was held back in England for a while by the influence of John Horne Tooke’s The Diversions of Purley, an odd “combination of philology and philosophy” that theorized that “underlying whole groups of words there were certain fundamental units of meaning and proceeded to etymologize several thousand words on that basis”.

This curious work is available online. I’ve just downloaded it in pdf form and I’ll have a browse through later to see if there’s anything particularly interesting or amusing. (Having quickly glanced at it I can say with confidence this is not a book you read from beginning to end!)

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Posted: 12 January 2017 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I enjoyed The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. When I went to Amazon to check author’s name, I saw that he had written another book called The Meaning of Everything: the story of the oed. So there’s another one for the list.

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Posted: 12 January 2017 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The Winchester book on the OED is a good one. (I was trying to remember it when I posted before, but failed.) It’s probably more accessible than this latest one and definitely cheaper.

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Posted: 12 January 2017 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Loved the Winchester book.

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Posted: 12 January 2017 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Me too, both of them.

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Posted: 13 January 2017 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I hate to be Grumpy Gus, but I had a very different reaction.

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Posted: 13 January 2017 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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And I note (rereading the thread) that I’m not the only one; the first comment says “Some well-meaning family members gave me The Professor and the Madman for Christmas the year it came out, and I couldn’t read past page three,” and many others chime in to agree.

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Posted: 13 January 2017 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I enjoyed, and appreciate, your detailed criticism of Winchester’s writing, lh.  With your evident extreme sensitivity to writing style, it’s a wonder to me that you are able to continue reading new books at all.
My own attitude to unsatisfactory writing was, for many years, to shrug: “oh well, how many people can perform magic with words, like Gibbon, or James Elroy Flecker”, and just to swallow whatever people threw at me in the way of writing style, for the sake of the content. Thus, I found The Professor and the Madman interesting reading, while at the same time I fully endorse your masterful denunciation of the way it’s written.
In recent years I’ve developed a different reading strategy, to avoid getting into books which are written in a way I don’t like: I only read books, the reading of which I know in advance is going to give me pleasure — to wit, books I’ve already read. Thus, of the last 100 books I’ve read, about 97 have been from Patrick O’brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, to which I go back time and time again, as one does to a musical composition, well-known and well-loved, with renewed delight. Many of my copies of these works have fallen apart, and had to be replaced: but I can happily say that I thoroughly enjoy almost everything I read, nowadays. How many people can say that? You may come back with “but what about new ideas?” to which I reply, á la Maturin, “the back of my hand to new ideas” (Q. Is there such a thing as “new ideas”?).

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Posted: 13 January 2017 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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You’re making me realize it’s about time I reread the Aubrey/Maturin books.

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Posted: 13 January 2017 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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What a shame.  I was toying with the idea of buying and enjoying the Winchester book, but what irritated lh would irritate me, too. Judging by the snippet read that amazon offers, this latest book seems a bit heavy (not to mention expensive) for me, but maybe it’s written for a more academic audience.

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Posted: 14 January 2017 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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My take from long ago.

I’m pretty effusive in my praise, more so than I probably would be today. (Talking more about style than substance, e.g., comparing the OED to the Human Genome Project.) I didn’t notice the faults that languagehat points out, but I do point out some gaps in Winchester’s treatment. Still, I recall enjoying reading it.

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Posted: 14 January 2017 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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What a shame.  I was toying with the idea of buying and enjoying the Winchester book, but what irritated lh would irritate me, too.

If I have kept even one person from spending money on that book, my life has not been in vain.

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