Words of the World by Sarah Ogilvie
A Global History of the Oxford English Dictionary

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Ogilvie's book – once you get past its tiresome academic apparatus of bar graphs and pie charts – is about the paradox of an insular idiom that, thanks to Britain's empire and to the economic might of monoglot Americans, has spread around the world.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Most people think of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as a distinctly British product. Begun in England 150 years ago, it took more than 60 years to complete and, when it was finally finished in 1928, the British prime minister heralded it as a 'national treasure'. It maintained this image throughout the twentieth century, and in 2006 the English public voted it an 'Icon of England', alongside Marmite, Buckingham Palace and the bowler hat. However, this book shows that the dictionary is not as 'British' as we all thought. The linguist and lexicographer, Sarah Ogilvie, combines her insider knowledge and experience with impeccable research to show that the OED is in fact an international product in both its content and its making. She examines the policies and practices of the various editors, applies qualitative and quantitative analysis, and finds new OED archival materials in the form of letters, reports and proofs. She demonstrates that the OED, in its use of readers from all over the world and its coverage of World English, is in fact a global text.
 

About Sarah Ogilvie

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Sarah Ogilvie is Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and Reader in Linguistics at the Australian National University. Prior to that she was Alice Tong Sze Research Fellow at Cambridge University. She has a PhD in linguistics from the University of Oxford and worked for many years as an editor on the Oxford English Dictionary in England, and the Macquarie and Oxford dictionaries in Australia.
 
Published October 31, 2012 by Cambridge University Press. 261 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Guardian

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Reviewed by Peter Conrad on Dec 30 2012

Ogilvie's book – once you get past its tiresome academic apparatus of bar graphs and pie charts – is about the paradox of an insular idiom that, thanks to Britain's empire and to the economic might of monoglot Americans, has spread around the world.

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