The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

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Oxford University Press, 2004 - English language - 260 pages
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'The greatest enterprise of its kind in history,' was the verdict of British prime minister Stanley Baldwin in June 1928 when The Oxford English Dictionary was finally published. With its 15,490 pages and nearly two million quotations, it was indeed a monumental achievement, gleaned from theefforts of hundreds of ordinary and extraordinary people who made it their mission to catalogue the English language in its entirety.In The Meaning of Everything, Simon Winchester celebrates this remarkable feat, and the fascinating characters who played such a vital part in its execution, from the colourful Frederick Furnivall, cheerful promoter of an all-female sculling crew, to James Murray, self-educated son of a draper, whospent half a century guiding the project towards fruition. Along the way we learn which dictionary editor became the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame's Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, and why Tolkien found it so hard to define 'walrus'. Written by the bestselling author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne and The Map That Changed the World, The Meaning of Everything is an enthralling account of the creation of the world's greatest dictionary.
 

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Contents

Taking the Measure of It All
1
The Construction of the PigeonHoles
46
The General Officer Commanding
72
Battling with the Undertow
97
Pushing through the Untrodden Forest
134
So Heavily Goes the Chariot
160
The Hermit and the Murdererand Hereward Thimbleby Price
186
From Take to Turndownand then Triumphal Valediction
216
And Always Beginning Again
238
Bibliography and Further Reading
251
Index
254
Picture Acknowledgements
260
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About the author (2004)

Simon Winchester is the author of the bestsellers The Surgeon of Crowthorne and The Map That Changed the World. After studying geology at Oxford, he became foreign correspondent for the Guardian and Sunday Times, and was based in Belfast, New Delhi, New York, London, and Hong Kong. He haswritten for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Spectator, and National Geographic, and is a frequent contributor to the BBC. He lives in Massachusetts, New York.

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