Alibi V.12 No.44 • Oct 30-Nov 5, 2003 

Art Article

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

Simon Winchester
Oxford University Press
hardcover
$25

What? The history of a dictionary? Could there be a more boring topic on Earth? How about a history of toe-nail clippers? Or just a book filled with blank pages? All right—not so fast, Pancho. For word freaks, at least, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is much more than just a dictionary. Back in 1857, when the project kicked off, no one imagined it would take 71 years to complete. It certainly was an ambitious project, though. The creators of the OED crafted a dictionary to end all dictionaries. Advance readers have said that Winchester's book does a fantastic job of telling the story of its creation, and it's much more exciting than you might think. The Meaning of Everything has already been called a towering testament to the intricate beauty of our great language. Lovers of the written word should be fascinated by the story it tells.