Jennifer's Reviews > The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
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May 06, 09

bookshelves: books-about-books, true-crime
Recommended for: Anyone who loves language!
Read in May, 2009

I never thought the story of a dictionary could be so compelling!

First, there's the pitiful story of W.C. Minor, an American military man who commits a terrible crime and is relegated to Broadmoor prison. In confinement, he works to help create the definitive lexicon of the English language.

Then Simon tells the story of the birth of the dictionary itself. The job of creating a still picture of a living language is fascinating.

Next, the book is full of thought provoking factoids about our language. For instance, the editors of the OED found the first use of the word "dirt" in a text from about 1689. Gives new meaning to the term, "older than dirt".
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