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

I found The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester to be a very interesting read. Simon Winchester does wonderful work to bring the different people, who worked on the enormous task of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, to life in as much detail as possible, showing both their good and their bad sides. Because of this I believe that those who enjoy biographies will find this an interesting read.

If you do not have any interest in the history of language and lexicography whatsoever, I would, however, caution the reader that there is a lot of that in the book as well. (Reading this book may also, on the other hand, cultivate a love of these subjects in the reader.) Also, do not think that you are reading a book on J.R.R. Tolkien’s work on the OED – although he is featured in the book.

Besides being a fascinating look at the diverse individuals who have worked on the OED, the book also gives the reader a newfound respect for lexicographers and the vast amount of work that goes into compiling and updating all the various dictionaries.

I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Winchester’s book and would highly recommend The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary to those readers who likes to read biographies, have an interest in language and lexicography, and those omnivorous readers who like to read something of everything. You will not be disappointed.

Winchester, S. (2004). The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
* Note: This is a short review of one of my own books, not a book I was asked to review.


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