More Meaning of Everything Notes

February 16, 2006 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

P.43 …of fairy-tale fame, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote sinister children’s stories as well as dictionaries.

P.53 On the Wikipedia-style of work first suggested for the New Dictionary, a group of 147 volunteer readers were first organized.  Unfortunately after a time only 89 were still working – the rest had lost their enthusiasm.  Of the 89, 30 were first-rate, 15 were inferior, and 44 hadn’t done enough to judge!

p.95 Samual Johnson wrote in the preface of his dictionary, “…that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to pursue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chase the sun, which when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them.

P.110 Discussing organization of readers for the dictionary, it was decided that they should be locally superintended (here, the issue was American readers) as…” as they still are today-for…the process of reading for the Dictionary still goes on, as it always must.” There is something especially pleasing to realize that this story continues today.

P.111 the readers were sent ‘slips,’ the pieces of paper on which they were to record their quotations.  That is, the readers themselves decided what to read and how to approach the work, but rules and order were imposed on the aggregation of their results.  A mixture that seems to have implications on how to manage information – freely decide the information to share, yet follow this template.

P.127 Nice quote from one of the book’s antigonists, “Jowett – whose publically stated aim was ‘to arrange my life in the best possible way, that I may be able to arrange other people’s'”

P.159 Personal quotations remain in the Dictionary, announcing for example the birth of Murray’s daughter: arrival, ‘the new arrival is a little daughter.’

P.218 The Dictionary was becoming ‘an impeccable source of lexical infallibility’ long before completion.  For example, in 1900, “A Chinaman in Singapore, on opening up a school for his countrymen, announces that he is prepared…to teach English up to the letter G.'”

Summary?  A very interesting and entertaining book about the history of the development of a truly amazing resource, the Oxford English Dictionary. 

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Entry filed under: Meaning of Everything.

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