The Word Detective by John Simpson
Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary

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...this isn’t a book for collectors of lexical trivia. Instead it’s a sustained and sincere reflection on what it means to make a dictionary – the toil, the puzzles, the costs and the profits.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Can you drink a glass of balderdash? What do you call the part of a dog’s back it can’t scratch? And if, serendipitously, you find yourself in Serendip, then where exactly are you?

The answers to all of these questions—and a great many more—can 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 words—from 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 John Simpson

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John Simpson is a Vietnam Era Veteran, former Police Officer of the Year, a Federal Agent, a Federal Magistrate, an armed bodyguard to Saudi Royalty, a senior Federal Government executive, and recipient of awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Treasury. John feels that for too long fiction writers neglected gay men. John writes entertaining, enjoyable, and enthralling fiction centered on the lives and lifestyles of gay men. John allows his readers to see life through gay mens' eyes. And just like real life, John's characters have active and exciting sex lives. .John lives with his partner of 36 years who he legally married in 2008, and their three Scottish Terriers.
 
Published October 25, 2016 by Basic Books. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Henry Hitchings on Nov 03 2016

...this isn’t a book for collectors of lexical trivia. Instead it’s a sustained and sincere reflection on what it means to make a dictionary – the toil, the puzzles, the costs and the profits.

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