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Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0300124293 ISBN-10: 0300124295

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300124295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300124293
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,500,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The “treasure-house of the language,” the Oxford English Dictionary, has inspired its own treasury of books, of which Brewer’s is just the latest. The 70-year process of creating the OED’s first edition, chronicled in  Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary (2003) and Lynda Mugglestone’s Lost for Words: The Hidden History of the Oxford English Dictionary (2005), has passed into heroic dictionary legend. Brewer takes the history forward from the first edition’s completion in 1928 into less familiar territory—the making of the first (1933) and second (1972–86) supplements; OED2 (1989), which merged the supplements with the original; and several Additions containing new entries. The need for a thorough revision, long recognized, began in earnest in 1994. Ironically, despite the OED’s relatively early conversion to an electronic medium, completion of the long-awaited third edition may take as long as the first; it was originally planned for 2010 but has been deferred. Brewer’s account is not light reading, but intrepid dictionary lovers will eat it up. --Mary Ellen Quinn


"Rich. . . . The OED is a text that has always fascinated me, and in Brewer's hands, it becomes even more interesting."—Michael G. Cornelius, The Bloomsbury Review
(Michael G. Cornelius The Bloomsbury Review 2008-03-01)

"A fascinating book for anyone interested in the English language in general and fans of the OED in particular. . . . Entertaining and enlightening."—Linda M. Davis, Technical Communication
(Linda M. Davis Technical Communication 2008-11-01)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary M. Olson on January 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book traces the recent history of the Oxford English Dictionary, from the publication of the first edition in 1928 (itself the culmination of decades of work) up to the present work on a third edition to be published entirely on-line. It is a fascinating history, shaped by policies and practices first established for work on the first edition (primarily by the editor James Murray), both lexicographical and business (the latter the Oxford University Press).

The history takes us through the initial Supplement published in 1933, a reduced but existant trickle of work until the 1950s, the production of a second Supplemnt in four volumes between 1957 and 1986, the release of a Second Edition of the complete dictionary in 1989, the brief phase of CD-based releases, and finally the current ambitious program to do a completely revamped and updated Third Edition on line.

Brewer does a masterful job of surveying and commenting on this fascinating period of history. Any project of the scale of the OED will have lots of shortcomings, errors, and biases, and Brewer reflects in detail how these have characterized each of the phases of this history. The ongoing tensions between the desire for "perfect" entries by the lexicographers and the need to publish something by the OUP is a central part of the story. All projections of project timelines have turned out to be hopelessly inaccurate -- including the present Third Edition project.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There have been many books about the compilation of the original _Oxford English Dictionary_, and this is as it should be. The monumental work started publishing its A volume in 1888 and finished the Z in 1928, with 15,000 pages defining over 400,000 words. At a banquet to celebrate its conclusion, it was hailed as "unrivalled in completeness and unapproachable in authority; as near infallibility, indeed, as we can hope to get this side of Rome." Millions of people trust that near-infallibility; to say "The _OED_ says..." about a word is to give the strongest of evidence. Yet although the dictionary was finished in 1928, it was not really finished (and never could be), and it was far from error-free. In 1951, a co-editor of the original _OED_, C. T. Onions, wrote that the great work had "hosts of wrong definitions, wrong datings, and wrong crossreferences. The problem is gigantic." How the lexicographers and the Oxford University Press handled the problem of updating and correcting the dictionary by supplements, abridgements, electronic versions, and the current online version is the subject of _Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED_ (Yale University Press) by Charlotte Brewer. Anyone who uses the _OED_, and anyone with any interest in words and the roles dictionaries play in the use of language, will find stimulating this scholarly history of the _OED_ after its first edition was completed.Read more ›
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