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Simon Winchester quotes (showing 1-30 of 35)

“And after that, and also for each word, there should be sentences that show the twists and turns of meanings—the way almost every word slips in its silvery, fishlike way, weaving this way and that, adding subtleties of nuance to itself, and then perhaps shedding them as public mood dictates.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“Any grand new dictionary ought itself to be a democratic product, a book that demonstrated the primacy of individual freedoms, of the notion that one could use words freely, as one liked, without hard and fast rules of lexical conduct.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“An end to timidity - the replacement of the philologically tentative by the lexicographically decisive." - on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary”
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“No critic and advocate of immutability has ever once managed properly or even marginally to outwit the English language's capacity for foxy and relentlessly slippery flexibility. For English is a language that simply cannot be fixed, not can its use 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.”
Simon Winchester, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
“In the sixteenth century in England, dictionaries such as we would recognize today simply did not exist. If the language that so inspired Shakespeare had limits, if its words had definable origins, spellings, pronunciations, meanings—then no single book existed that established them, defined them, and set them down.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“God—who in that part of London society was of course firmly held to be an Englishman—naturally approved the spread of the language as an essential imperial device;”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“The language should be accorded just the same dignity and respect as those other standards that science was then also defining.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“There is a Sacerdotall dignitie in my native Countrey contiguate to me, where I now contemplate: which your worshipfull benignitie could sone impenetrate for mee, if it would like you to extend your sedules, and collaude me in them to the right honourable lord Chaunceller, or rather Archgrammacian of Englande.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“All of a sudden his books, which had hitherto been merely a fond decoration and a means of letting his mind free itself from the grim routines of Broadmoor life, had become his most precious possession. For the time being at least he could set aside his imaginings about the harm that people were trying to inflict on him and his person: It was instead his hundreds of books that now needed to be kept safe, and away from the predators with whom he believed the asylum to be infested. His books, and his work on the words he found in them, were about to become the defining feature of his newly chosen life.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“The very name Impressionism is taken from an Atlantic Ocean painting - that of Monet, of sunrise in the harbor of Le Havre, done in 1872.”
Simon Winchester
“Without haste, without fear, we conquer the world.”
Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
“Our histories, our novels, our poems, our plays—they are all in this one book.”
Simon Winchester, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
“The citizens of Buffalo, then a smallish lakeside town, embarked on a brief campaign, led by a local judge named Wilkeson, to clear their own eponymous riverway and so tempt the canal engineers to route the Erie Canal to a terminus nearby. Energetic lobbying, together with the clearance of the creek, evidently worked, for the engineers did eventually end their labors there, and the fact that more than a million people now still brave one of the country’s cruelest climates (with roof-topping lake-effect snowfalls drowning the city each winter) to live in and around Buffalo is testimony to the wisdom of Judge Wilkeson and the city fathers of 1825 in doing all the persuading, as well as dredging and prettifying the banks of Buffalo Creek.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
“Montana named Triple Divide Peak.”
Simon Winchester, Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
“Railroads brought about lasting social effects, as well. The companies’ ruthless attention to keeping time impelled passengers to carry pocket watches,* and led to the eventual establishment of time zones.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
“was the heroic creation of a legion of interested and enthusiastic men and women of wide general knowledge and interest; and it lives on today, just as lives the language of which it rightly claims to be a portrait.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“According to an equally lovingly preserved English translation of the prospectus, the purpose of Ibuka’s firm was “to establish an ideal factory that stresses a spirit of freedom and open-mindedness, and where engineers with sincere motivation can exercise their technological skills to the highest level.” We shall, he pledged, “eliminate any unfair profit-seeking exercises” and “seek expansion not only for the sake of size.” Further, “we shall carefully select employees . . . we shall avoid to have [sic] formal positions for the mere sake of having them, and shall place emphasis on a person’s ability, performance and character, so that each”
Simon Winchester, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
“individual can fully exercise his or her abilities and skills. “We shall distribute the company’s surplus earnings to all employees in an appropriate manner, and we shall assist them in a practical manner to secure a stable life. In return, all employees shall exert their utmost effort into their job.” Finally, his new company would help his country. Its formally stated national intent was to help “reconstruct Japan, and to elevate the nation’s culture through dynamic cultural and technological activities.” Yet”
Simon Winchester, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
“The northeast trade winds that blow at a steady fifteen knots onto the cliffs and reefs of the islands’ lee shores produce endless trains of eminently glidable waves.”
Simon Winchester, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
“said. ‘To make someone lose face is unforgivable.’ The”
Simon Winchester, Korea
“The English language was spoken and written—but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air—it was taken for granted, the medium that enveloped and defined all Britons. But as to exactly what it was, what its components were—who knew?”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“The cities of the eastern American fall line are well known today—Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Philadelphia—even though the part that the very similar accidents of geology and river behavior played in their origins may have been long forgotten.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
“Voyages from Montreal to the Frozen and Pacific Ocean had been written by a Scottish fur trader, from Stornoway in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, named Alexander Mackenzie. Or more accurately, Sir Alexander Mackenzie—since King George III had awarded him a knighthood for becoming the first white man ever to cross the entirety of North America. Mackenzie had completed his voyage almost nine years earlier. He suspected that his seven-month overland journey to the Pacific was probably of historic moment, and so he had left a memorial. He had created what he hoped would be a lasting inscription on a tiny sea-washed rock near the present-day British Columbia fishing village of Bella Coola: “Alex. MacKenzie, from Canada by land. 22nd July, 1793.” He had inscribed the message with his finger, using an old trappers’ trick for long-duration messages, dipping it into a poultice made of bear grease mixed with vermilion powder and smearing out words that he hoped would survive the cold and lashing rains for which the Pacific coast is notorious.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
“But those who initially went to the West were overtaken by the barbarism of the frontier with astonishing speed - think Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness. There was murder, mayhem, robbery, alcoholism, depression, and suicide, and all of it on a positively Homeric scale that still has cultural anthropologists enraptured.”
Simon Winchester
“Jonathan Swift mounted a lifelong attempt to ‘fix our language forever’—no critic and advocate of immutability has ever once managed properly or even marginally to outwit the English language’s capacity for foxy and relentlessly slippery flexibility.”
Simon Winchester, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
“apostates.”
Simon Winchester, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers
“One newcomer, asked why he had killed his wife and children, told the superintendent: “I don’t know why I am telling you all of this. It’s none of your business As a matter of fact it was none of the judge’s business either. It was a purely family affair.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“One woman even disparaged Johnson for failing to include obscenities. “No, Madam, I hope I have not daubed my fingers,” he replied, archly. “I find, however, that you have been looking for them.”
Simon Winchester, The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
“2 percent of America’s electricity now goes to keeping the Internet cool, to keeping the link unbroken, for America and for the world.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
“the creation of any sense of unity among a population of potentially disharmonious settlers almost always requires the deliberate agency of man.”
Simon Winchester, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible

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