The Meaning of Everything

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

3.98 (3,552 ratings by Goodreads)
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'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 World, The Meaning of Everything is an enthralling account of the creation of the world's greatest more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 16mm | 299.37g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • numerous halftones
  • 0192805762
  • 9780192805768
  • 97,570

Review quote

the account is engaging and its conclusion a absorbing account * The Scotsman * absorbing and entertaining * Times Literary Supplement * Review from previous edition My book of the year, for pure exuberant, serious, funny, short, full, entrancingly readable account * Jane Gardam, Spectator * A lively and largely informative chronicle of a still-staggering enterprise * Helen Zaltzman, Observer * 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 * Splendid history of the OED * Evening Standard * Splendid history of the OED * The Scotsman * 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 * Irresistible * The Independent * compelling reading. Winchester is excellent on the theory and practice of lexicography * Sunday Times *show more

Table of contents


About Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester is the author of the bestsellers The Surgeon of Crowthorne and The Map That Changed the World. After studying geology at Oxford, he became foreign correspondent for the Guardian and Sunday Times, and was based in Belfast, New Delhi, New York, London, and Hong Kong. He has written for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Spectator, and National Geographic, and is a frequent contributor to the BBC. He lives in Massachusetts, New more

Review Text

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 Reviewshow more

Rating details

3,552 ratings
3.98 out of 5 stars
5 30% (1,075)
4 43% (1,526)
3 23% (801)
2 3% (124)
1 1% (26)
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