Monday, July 19, 2004

The Meaning of Everything

Simon Winchester, The Meaning of Everything
And now, to the real deal, a true dictionnarrative--the story of the fabled Oxford English Dictionary (which, as the author notes, might have been published at Cambridge if history had taken a different turn). Winchester's deft prose conveys his utter enthusiasm for all things nerdy. (When I was young, I was accused of "reading the dictionary;" if we'd had an OED in the house, I'm sure I would have.)

An example of Winchester's over-the-top ardor:
These were essential: the millions of words from these quotations offer up countless examples of exactly how the language worked over the centuries of its employment, and by their use they mark the OED out as the finest dictionary ever made in any language, and made, as it happens, of the language that is the most important in the world, and probably will be for all time.
I suppose the Greeks thought the same thing about Greek, and heaven knows the Romans were quite fond of Latin. For the future, my money's on Asia; the global balance of power will shift toward China and India in the next two decades. You heard it here first.

[originally posted July 14, 2004]


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