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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The fascinating, monumental story of the creation of the original Oxford English Dictionary
  • A best-selling book in its own right: over 100,000 copies sold
  • With a new foreword by Simon Winchester, reflecting on the continuing life of the OED 90 years after it was first published, and a facsimile of the dictionary's original marketing pamphlet

New to this Edition:

  • A new foreword from Simon Winchester, reflecting on the book.

'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 the efforts 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, who spent 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 WorldThe Meaning of Everything is an enthralling account of the creation of the world's greatest dictionary.


1:Taking the Measure of It All
2:The Construction of the Pigeon-Holes
3:The General Officer Commanding
4:Battling the Undertow
5:Pushing through the Untrodden Forest
6:So Heavily Goes the Chariot
7:The Hermit and the Murderer - and Hereward Thimbleby Price
8:From Take to Turndown - and then, Triumphal Valediction
Epilogue: And Always Beginning Again
Bibliography and Further Reading

About the author: 

Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist, and broadcaster. As a journalist he covered major events, including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. He is the author of Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories (2010), The Professor and the Madman (1999), The Map that Changed the World (2001), and A Crack in the Edge of the World (2005), all of which have been New York Times bestsellers.

"teeming with knowledge and alive with insights. Winchester handles humor and awe with modesty and cunning. His prose is supremely readable." - New York Times Book Review

"exuberant, serious, funny, short, full, entrancingly readable" - Jane Gardam, Spectator

"compelling reading. Winchester is excellent on the theory and practice of lexicography" - Sunday Times

"Irresistible" - The Independent

"Simon Winchester's book is a fascinating catalogue of political wrangles, logistical conundrums and personal battles that underlay the work's creation. This book is a delightful curiosity" - Zoe Green, Daily Telegraph

"Simon Winchester has told this story with a touch of human drama and with a true sense of the social history that surrounded the enterprise." - Stephen Wade, Contemporary Review

"A lively and largely informative chronicle of a still-staggering enterprise" - Helen Zaltzman, Observer

"A must for language lovers." - The Lady

Product details

ISBN : 9780198814399

Simon Winchester
304 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Apr 2017
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The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

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

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