From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Like the previous edition, this work "sets out the main meanings and semantic developments of words current at any time between 1700 and the present day." Words such as achtande, knottle, or pompal (all present in OED Online) that are obsolete, obsolete variations, or rare are therefore not included. Words obsolete by 1700 are still included, however, if used by authors such as Shakespeare or other "influential literary sources." Headwords are traced back to their earliest usage. The dust jacket from the work claims it has "more than one third of the coverage of the OED" and more than half a million definitions, with 83,500 illustrative quotations from 7,000 authors. Although the preface does not cite the number of new entries, publicity from Oxford states that 3,500 new words have been added to this edition. An actual headword count is not given, though the publisher's Web site puts the number at 97,600.
The most welcome change to this edition is that the text is much easier on the eyes than in the fourth edition. Most notably, the illustrative quotations are placed within a tinted text box, making them very easy to spot. In the main entries, each definition sense is now started on a new line in clear, bold numbers (the older edition had all the senses grouped together in one paragraph), and etymologies are spelled out, with Old English or Middle Low German replacing the fourth edition's OE or MLG, respectively. Addressing a criticism RBB had of the fourth edition, abbreviations are now within regular alphabetical order rather than placed at the beginning of the alphabet.
Unfortunately, one thing the Shorter OED has not changed is its tradition of abbreviating dates of first use--and, when needed, of last use--for a headword (L19 for late-nineteenth century, M20 for mid-twentieth century). Because even collegiate dictionaries now routinely spell out a date range for first use, it is time Oxford adopted a similar approach. It would also be useful to attach a date to the illustrative quotations used rather than just citing the author.
With both OED Online and the print Oxford English Dictionary too expensive for many libraries, this is a reasonably priced work that includes the requisite neologisms (Bollywood, full monty, and phat, among others) to make it a goof-proof purchase for all libraries, even those owning the parent work. The Shorter OED has some entries (Jedi, Klingon, and warp drive) that are not even included in OED Online. In short, this is one badass dictionary deserving a place in almost every library. RBB
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