Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 pages by Ammon Shea

Can you imagine attempting to read the entire 20 volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (a mere 21,730 pages) over the course of a year? Dictionary aficionado and word collector Ammon Shea tackled exactly just that. Spending approximately 10 hours per day often camped out in the basement of the Hunter College Library, he read through the etymology and definitions of each and every word of this voluminous tome. One might expect a book about reading the OED to be rather tedious, but this is simply not the case here thanks to Shea’s witty and clever writing.

A single chapter is dedicated to every letter of the alphabet and begins with an introductory passage which may share interesting nuggets of general dictionary or OED lore or it might discuss one of the many mental or physical challenges facing Shea as he progresses through the extensive lexicon. Each chapter concludes with snippets of humorous commentary on a selection of favorite words discovered along this word-rich journey. Why not pass a few pleasant hours reading this perfectly delightful book? And while doing so you just might pick up a few strange and unique words that you can show off at your next social gathering.

If you enjoyed Reading the OED, then you may be inspired to read two extremely well-written and researched books both by Simon Winchester which present fascinating historical background and even some intrigue on the creation of the OED. Check the VBPL catalog for The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary and The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I started reading this book and the beginning was hilarious. I can't explain. You have to read Ammon Shea. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.