NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!

Lezlie



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING

by Simon Winchester



The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, the title pretty much says it all. And who would have thought there would be so much drama in the creation of a dictionary! Come to think of it, who thinks about the creation of a dictionary in general? :-) Apparently Simon Winchester spends a lot of time thinking about it, because he's written two books on the subject. The other is The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, which has moved up a couple of notches on my TBR list now that I've heard a little bit about the man he discusses in it. He was an inmate at a sanitarium while he was working on the OED, and the editor had no idea!

Other interesting factoids:

- The Oxford English Dictionary took 71 years to produce
- Hundreds of volunteer readers scoured thousands of books to amass well over a million illustrative quotations of the words included in the dictionary
- J.R.R. Tolkien was an assistant editor for the OED
- Novelist Julian Barnes worked on the supplement for the OED after its initial publication
- Alexander Graham Bell gave one of his first versions of the telephone to one of the original OED editors, who then abandoned it as useless junk in his attic

There is more! This book was a lot of fun to listen to, especially for a trivia junky. It was fascinating to hear and think about all the living, breathing people who worked so devotedly on one of our favorite reference books long, long before there were any such things as computers. Yeah. It was all done manually. "Manualadjective 1 made or worked with the hands. 2 using or working with the hands: a manual worker." (Compact Oxford English Dictionary)



14 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I love trivia like that. I may have to look for this one.

Lezlie said...

Bermudaonion ~ I was surprised at how interesting it turned out to be. I was almost sad when it was over!

Lezlie

Heather J. said...

I listened to THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN and I highly recommend it - it was fascinating!

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ Oh, good! I just checked to make sure my library has it on disc. It does!!

Lezlie

Lightheaded said...

I have a copy of The Professor and the Madman! I think I will hunt for that in my shelves (and wish I have a copy of this too!) Sounds like a fantastic read for a subject I probably won't even bother reading at all.

Then again, the reason I picked up TPATM is the book blurb at the back. Couldn't resist. If only I can find my copy among my stacks of TBR. Hahaha!

Lezlie said...

Lightheaded ~ I was looking at some of his other books at the library, too. He has some really odd, interesting stuff! My husband just started reading his book called "The Map That Changed The World", and he said that's really good, too.

Lezlie

Ladytink_534 said...

I used to copy out of the dictionary for fun as a kid, weird I know lol. Neat facts!!! I'm a bit of a trivia junky myself :)

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ I'll bet it made you smarter though! I have a secret fixation with vocabulary workbooks. ;-)

Lezlie

Lisa said...

I don't normally read a great deal of nonfiction, but I read and enjoyed this one a couple years ago. As you say, there is quite a bit of drama in the book, which makes it read almost as if it were fiction. Your post yesterday mentioned wanting to own the entire OED, which to most people would seem insane. However, after reading the book, I've been obsessed with owning it myself. I'd love to come across a nice used set somewhere. Ah, a girl and her dreams...

Lezlie said...

Lisa ~ I'm not sure how someone could read this and *not* want to own the whole set! :-) It is a geeky wish though. I've thought about maybe ordering the CD-ROM version (much cheaper), but there's something about the printed books that is so appealing. We can dream together!

Lezlie

Jeane said...

I liked the Professor and the Madman so much, I definitely want to read this one now! Thanks for the review.

Lezlie said...

Jeane ~ You're welcome!

Lezlie

Rebecca Reid said...

I liked this one even better than Professor and the madman, which is more of a biography of the two characters. I was more into the creation of the dictionary.

And for those into the OED, you can get an online subscription for $295 a year of $29.95 a month. Often public libraries have a subscription to it. It's very easy to use online, although a bit steep in price.

I just looked it up. Only $80 via CD-ROM but of course that's only words through 1997.

Lezlie said...

Hi, Rebecca! We did consider the online subscription or CD-ROM, but there is just something about having those printed books all lined up on the shelf, ready to be thumbed through at leisure. . . Big sigh. Someday! :-)

Lezlie