- Leather Bound: 22000 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (June 29, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0191958921
- ISBN-13: 978-0191958922
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 10.7 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 pounds
- Shipping Advisory: This item must be shipped separately from other items in your order. Additional shipping charges will not apply.
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,270,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford English Dictionary: 20 Volume Set 2nd Edition
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Proper words in their proper places--and a good many improper ones, too! If the OED's many obsolete definitions tend to be the most enjoyable--shuff is dialect for "shy," dolt was once upon a time a verb as well, meaning "to befool"--everyday idiosyncrasies still abound. But, for instance, occupies nine columns of text, and who would wish a single line away? There's also the sublime pleasure of trawling through the sea of relevant quotations. The OED's initial team of "voluntary readers" was asked to cite as many phrases as possible for both archaic and ordinary terms. None seems to have found this remotely arduous, and we now reap the >ubiquitous ("present or appearing everywhere; omnipresent") rewards. This huge venture is a labor of lore, love, and good humor. One caveat: If you skip over the Historical Introduction, you'll miss learning about the Unregistered Words Committee, and overlook the wry warning, "If there is any truth in the old Greek maxim that a large book is a great evil, English dictionaries have been steadily growing worse ever since their inception...." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'It is, of course, the second edition of the greatest dictionary of all'
William Russell, Glasgow Herald
'The dimensions of the dictionary are awe-inspiring. A wonderfully versatile research tool'
'The alpha, the omega, and some 464,000 more words besides. Incomparable.'
The Sydney Morning Herald
'a near miracle of data processing ... a thorough-going revision of the greatest dictionary of the English language ... OED2 is a work that no serious researcher can afford to ignore'
Peter Baker, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, Notes and Queries, March 1991
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps you worry that it might be an unwise purchase. We live in the age of the CD ROM, so why buy the printed volumes? The language seems to operate like a wheel rolling down a muddy slope picking up all manner of accretions as it progresses downhill. Will a work like this, then, become irrelevant? I think not. The citation formula used will always be relevant for readers interested in historical usage. The entire work constitutes, in a way, a history of the English Language, as well as a social history of English speaking peoples from the 12th century through to the end of the 20th century. Some scholars say it is unduly biased in the direction of English Victorian values, with a creeping pre-disposition toward a prescriptive rather than a descriptive stance on definitions. The compilers seem to want to position it to be a final arbiter on "Correct Usage". Who cares? It is manna in the wilderness to anyone who loves the language, who likes to browse, and is not stimulated by the inanity of television. If Political Correctness is the filter through which all literature must pass for you, you'll probably not read very much of value, anyway.
No other dictionary is so richly enjoyable as a work to read on its own. One does not go to the OED just to find the meaning of a word, one is beguiled, on opening a volume, to read many pages about all kinds of words. You'll never walk into the British Museum or the Louvre just to look at a single piece of Art and leave having looked only at that one piece. Here is the great exhibition of the language, its gallery.
All speakers and students of the language are in Oxford's debt, and will forever be so. No dictionary comes close in comprehensiveness of coverage (its word count, i.e., the quantity of words defined, exceeds that covered in any other competing dictionary). This set, rightly, is the central jewel in OUP's crown of publications. If you're a writer, you can't afford not to purchase this set.
Legend has it that a new "improved" edition will be out some time between 2001 and 2003. I sense that the improvements will appeal particularly to the ultra-scholarly linguist/lexicographers among its readers. Improvements shall include the addition of citations that might, for instance, antedate the earliest citation shown in a previous edition. It might, however, not be utterly essential to you you to know, for example, that the first user of the term "Byronic" was Byron himself. The changes from the 2nd to the 3rd edition may be minimal, in print at least. Doubtless, there will be significant improvements to the search capability, appearance, and user friendliness of the software version. But, don't hesitate to purchase the printed 2nd edition. If you feel the CD ROM version is superior to the printed edition, this will boil down to whether or not you are a bibliophile. Nothing equals the tactile pleasure of the printed page, bound well. OED 2 is one of the handsomest printing jobs I've ever seen. The cloth binding is extremely rugged and well designed, elegant and solidly conservative in physical appearance. The paper is itself bright and smooth, the font/type clear and eminently readable. Even the dust jackets are beautiful, a real improvement over the previous design. "Additions" volumes (times 3) are available for anyone interested in the vocabulary of the 90s. The 3rd edition will integrate these into the main work. But, a dictionary in the hand is worth two in the planning stage. And the beautiful volumes of the 2nd edition are available from Amazon.com at what amounts to bargain price.
Buy this wonderful, beautifully produced and enduring work; it is a treasure for life that will never fail to impress you with the alluring beauty and quirky mutability of this most glorious of languages.
Aside from the obvious depth of this dictionary, it's greatest benefits are the examples of usage drawn from throughout printed history.
If you've ever been disgusted after being unable to find a word in some other dictionary, and thought to yourself, "What self-respecting dictionary doesn't have (insert sought word here)!", I can assure you that it will never happen again if you get this book.
If you're thinking that the magnifying glass business is unworkable or unwieldy, think again. You've basically got 4 pages on each (oversize) page. For quick reading, I can do without the magnifying glass. For digging deep into the definition, it works like a charm.
Although I appreciate the efforts of the OED to put so much material into one book, the product is just too unwieldy - to hold, to read, to carry around. In addition to the print being tiny, the book is huge. It's nice as an object, but as a functional dictionary it proves to be rather inconvenient - especially if you don't have a nice big stand for it to rest on, which I don't.
I really dislike staring at a computer screen, and prefer to get a paper copy of any text if at all possible - but for the OED that isn't economically feasible. I didn't want the abridged version, and buying all twenty volumes is prohibitively expensive - so I really do recommend the CD Rom version or subscribing to the dictionary online if you have Internet access. You can't really browse in those, which is too bad, but you can't really browse while trawling around this Lilliputian thicket of letters with a magnifying glass either.
The electronic sources have the additional feature of being searchable by multiple terms, so you can find quotes from a particular author, or book - and many other things that aren't possible with paper.
Buy this if you only plan on dipping into it on rare occasions, and want a lovely object, but there are better options for people really hoping to use it as a dictionary.