2009年8月8日 星期六

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
260pp, Oxford, £12.99

In 1858 the members of the Philological Society decided that work
should begin on a "New Dictionary of the English Language". Seventy
years and more than £300,000 later, A New English Dictionary on
Historical Principles - what we now know as the OED - was first
published in its entirety. Simon Winchester, whose popular book The
Surgeon of Crowthorne told the odd story of the murderer who, from his
cell in Broadmoor, contributed thousands of illustrative quotations to
the dictionary, now offers a brief account of the whole enterprise.

He first sprints through the development of language in Britain and
sketches the development of monolingual lexicography, from Robert
Cawdrey's 1604 dictionary which advertised itself as being "for the
benefit of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other unskilfull persons", to
Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster.
Then we come to the story of the OED itself and its early editors:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's grandson Herbert, brilliant but sickly,
whose dying words were, according to legend, "I must begin Sanskrit
tomorrow"; and Frederick Furnivall, who recruited pretty young women
from Hammersmith cafés to induct them into his sculling club.

Work on the dictionary was at best sporadic; finally, in 1879,
red-bearded Scotsman James Murray was appointed editor and became the
hero of the story. We see him erect his first Scriptorium - a
corrugated-iron shed in his garden - to house his assistants, and to
shelve the hundreds of thousands of quotation slips sent in by
volunteers. He battles against interfering superiors and moves to
Oxford, where the local post office erects a shiny new red pillar box
right outside his house to handle the volume of correspondence.
Winchester explains well the enormous labours involved in compiling
even four pages, and his notion of the OED as a triumph of Victorian
engineering is apposite.

According to the lovably irascible Murray, the poet Browning used
words "without regard to their proper meaning". Worryingly, so does
Winchester. He tells us that the Shakespearean word "vastidity" means
"big". (As the OED itself confirms, it means the quality of being very
big, or "vastness".) He declaims grandiloquently that the OED "...
quite literally, would be classically democratic". (It was, of course,
not "literally" democratic, since the editor had absolute power in
writing the final definitions.)

Winchester is besotted with ungrammatical constructions - which defect
seems allied to his peculiar strivings for genteel archaism, as when
he calls a year a "twelvemonth", or refers to a short rest as a
"period of quietude". He is also in love with hyperbole (he refers to
a group of dining academics as "a stellar gathering of intellect,
rarely either assembled or able to be assembled since"). Most gruesome
of all are Winchester's attempts at pseudo-novelistic colour. People
at a ball in 1928 apparently "whirled like stately dervishes". This is
popular history that, though it is published by the august Oxford
University Press itself, feels no need even to pay lip-service to
"historical principles".

· Steven Poole's Trigger Happy is published by Fourth Estate.

Taiwan, 2005


‧作者:賽門‧溫契斯特Simon Winchester

【基本資料 |序曲|書摘 1|書摘 2 】


【基本資料|序曲 |書摘 1 |書摘 2 】







▼ 作者簡介

賽門‧溫契斯特Simon Winchester

Surgeon of Crowthorne),描述英格蘭精神療養院的殺人犯──美國軍醫麥諾,為OED查索引句,與主編莫雷結下一段不解之緣,共同為這本龐大的辭典寫下一段少為人知的傳奇,這段插曲在《OED的故事》中也有所著墨。其他著作有《一九○六年加州大地震》(A
Crack in the Edge of the World)、《克拉卡托亞火山爆發記》(Krakatoa)、《改變世界的地圖》(The
Map That Changed the World),以及《世界中央的河流》(The River at the Center of the

▼ 譯者簡介



▼ 目錄

序曲 Prologue

1 測量規模1. Taking the Measure of it All
2 分類與架構 2. The Construction of the Pigeonholes
3 指揮大局 3. The General Officer Commanding
4 蜂擁而回的詞彙大軍4. Battling the Undertow
5 穿越文字密林 5. Pushing through the Untrodden Forest
6 緩如牛步 6. So Heavily Goes the Chariot
7 隱士、殺人犯與形形色色的辭典義工 7. The Hermit and the Murderer - and Hereward
Thimble by Price
8 光榮告別8. From Take to Turndown - and then, Triumphal Valediction
尾聲/恆常復始 Epilogue: And Always Beginning Again
書目與延伸閱讀Bibliography and Further Reading
Picture Acknowledgements


I S B N:710005754X
I S B N 13:9787100057547
作 者:[英]溫徹斯特
精平裝/頁數: 平裝本 / 283頁
出版日: 2009/03/01
牛津系列英語學習詞典被譽為“全世界擁有最多讀者的英文詞典”。本書以倒敘的方式,從《牛津英語詞典》首版問世的1928年來切入整個編纂事件的描述。描 述了《牛津英語詞典》的編纂者們為界定大千世界物質與精神萬物的要義為付出的艱辛努力,讓我們領略了英語語言濫觴於西元前500年到繁盛於當今21世紀的 時代變遷中蘊積的無窮人文魅力。可以說是真正意義上的《牛津英語詞典》編纂史,是立足於這一宏大歷史事件而進行的全面深刻的揭示,不僅使人增長知識,而且 還給人以無限啟迪。是值得廣大英語愛好者和研究者一讀的有關英語語言史,特別是辭彙史方面的有價值的參考書。