The Meaning of Everything

Like many other books that I enjoy, Simon Winchester’s non-fiction opus, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, won’t appeal to everyone. But if you’re interested in words — and the development of the English language in general — you won’t want to miss this compelling story of the 54-year-long construction of the OED. Something of a companion volume to The Professor and the Madman, we have here what Paul Harvey would call “the rest of the story.” It’s a reasonably comprehensive account of how the OED was built and what the contributors were like. It’s at least as much a human history as it is the story of a dictionary. You would probably expect it to be dry, but it isn’t. In fact, if anything, I would have liked more technical details. But that’s just me; most readers will prefer it the way it is.

Categories: Books, Linguistics