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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
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The Book-Club Books > March 2011 - The Meaning of Everything

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message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim This month we're going with a non-fiction book, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This should be an interesting read, hopefully not too dry. I only recently finished Simon Winchester's earlier book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary so I'll see how much of that book is in this one.


message 2: by Michael, Mod Prometheus (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michael (knowledgelost) | 1255 comments Mod
I'm looking forward to reading our first non-fiction book. It looks interesting


message 3: by Michael, Mod Prometheus (last edited Mar 02, 2011 03:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michael (knowledgelost) | 1255 comments Mod
First impression: I keep thinking back to The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson and how much easier that book was to read. I feel Simon Winchester is a little dry and could work on making the book more entertaining rather than just spitting out facts


message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim I know what you mean. I read a few reviews where they said it was a really funny book but I'm half way through and whilst I am enjoying it I'm not really finding it funny, just interesting.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim I definitely preferred The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. It was an interesting book but I don't think I got much from it that I couldn't have gotten by reading the OED page on Wikipedia.


message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim So has anyone else read this or reading it? What do you think of it?


message 7: by Michael, Mod Prometheus (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michael (knowledgelost) | 1255 comments Mod
I did really enjoy the subject matter of this book, but the writing was too dry, it felt like I was reading Wikipedia. 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


Viktor Sorry, this is very late.
I found this book well written giving fascinating details about people who developed the OED. Now, after reading this book, I have a huge respect for this particular dictionary and it is my favourite to use. I agree that using a wealth of citations allows us to discern the faintest differences between the meanings of words. This is probably the greatest advantage of the OED over any other dictionary.

It is also evident that the author tends to reminisce about the older times like in the following instances:
“The book had gathered up 3000 of these ‘hard words’, and had been particularly edited, Cawdrey stated on his title page with all the magnificent carelessness of the times, ‘for the benefit and helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other unskilful person’. (I wonder what is so magnificent about it.)
“He [James Murray] was remarkable even in an age that produced a disproportionate share, or so it seems today, of exceptionally clever men.” (Well, we probably have our fair share of exceptionally clever men, but we also have computer games and lots of other distractions…)
“… he [James Murray] was pleasantly occupied by his immense raft of scholarly interests; and he loved teaching polite and intelligent children who had been selected to attend what remains one of the country’s finer schools”. (Wouldn’t that be nice? I wonder what happened to the children who were not selected…)

It was also easy to notice that less and less information was provided about the events in 1900s and the people involved in the project at this stage. It’s like the author hasn’t done enough research about this period or was running out of puff towards the end.


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