9 july 01

So I just finished reading The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, leant to me by a friend. The subhead of the book's title reads as follows: "A tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary". Rather than explain the whole story, let's just say that now I have to start a savings fund for the express purpose of purchasing my own copy of the OED. I've always had a thing for dictionaries and even tried writing my own when I was in elementary school (of course, I got about as far as designing the cover and writing up about 10 words, but hey), but I never really considered what went into the making of one, or of the first ones, specifically. The OED is a historical record of the entire English language using quotes from literature and other texts to show the words in context from their first recorded occurrance to their present day usage. The 20-volume set, however, is over $1000 and so I won't be making that purchase any time soon. The Compact OED (which has the same content but reduced to fit into one volume and comes with a magnifying glass) is about $400. My cousin Melissa, who used to work for the Oxford University Press, bought my uncle the Compact OED as a gift several years back. I remember it was blue and beautiful and the print was tiny, tiny, tiny. One day, when I live in a house (and therefore have more space for shelving), I will own those 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oh yes.