The Word Detective (Hardcover)
Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary
Basic Books, 9780465060696, 384pp.
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Other Editions of This Title:
The answers to all of these questionsand a great many morecan be found in the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary, the definitive record of the English language. And there is no better guide to the dictionary's many wonderments than the former chief editor of the OED, John Simpson. Simpson spent almost four decades of his life immersed in the intricacies of our language, and guides us through its history with charmingly laconic wit. In The Word Detective, an intensely personal memoir and a joyful celebration of English, he weaves a story of how words come into being (and sometimes disappear), how culture shapes the language we use, and how technology has transformed not only the way we speak and write but also how words are made.
Throughout, he enlivens his narrative with lively excavations and investigations of individual wordsfrom deadline to online and back to 101 (yes, it's a word)all the while reminding us that the seemingly mundane words (can you name the four different meanings of ma?) are often the most interesting ones. But Simpson also reminds us of the limitations of language: spending his days in the OED's house of words, his family at home is forced to confront the challenges of wordlessness.
A brilliant and deeply humane expedition through the world of words, The Word Detective will delight and inspire any lover of language.
About the Author
John Simpson is the former chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, where he helped digitize the dictionary. He lives in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom.
Praise For The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary…
"Delightful...a fitting companion to Elisabeth Murray's Caught in the Web of Words and Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman...Simpson peppers the text of his book with page-long etymologies for everything from 'inkling' to 'balderdash' to 'selfie,' and with affecting touches of his personal and family history, all of which deepen and humanize this fascinating paean to lexicography."