Lost for words : the hidden history of the Oxford English dictionary /

Main Author: Mugglestone, Lynda.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New Haven : Yale University Press, c2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Spurred on by the scholarship of German and French lexicographers and by distaste for the outdated pedantry of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, Richard Chenevix Trench proposed in 1857 a dictionary to inventory the entire English language. Published ultimately as the Oxford English Dictionary, it was 70 years in the making. By scrutinizing the proofs of the OED, Mugglestone (Oxford Univ.) unearthed--and reveals here--controversies that could easily have scuttled the project. Funds were limited; backers grew impatient; proofreading left little time for the "real work" of lexicography; the inclusion of scientific and technical terms was so hotly contested that even the word "appendicitis" was eventually dropped (only to become the OED's most famous omission after Edward VII's bout of appendicitis delayed his coronation). In addition, WW I depleted the energies of Oxford University Press and coincided with the 1915 death of OED editor James Murray. Begun in 1881, the OED was not finished until 1928. This "hidden history" of the dictionary's difficulties grew out of the work Mugglestone did for Lexicography and the OED (CH, Feb'01, 38-3162), which she edited, but the present volume lacks the invaluable glossary of personalia that Mugglestone provided for the earlier work. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty. J. Shreve Allegany College of Maryland

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

The history of the Oxford English Dictionary 0 ( OED0 ) has engendered several other chronicles, including Simon Winchester's Professor and the Madman 0 (1998) and The Meaning of Everything 0 (2003). Mugglestone, an Oxford English professor, bases her account on close examination of the page proofs for the first edition. Despite the aim to be neutral, inclusive, and exhaustive, the process of compiling the dictionary involved persistent winnowing, dictated partly by economic pressures and partly by questions from the publishers about modern sources (especially newspapers), scientific and technical terms, Americanisms, and more--and the cutting became more stringent as the dictionary progressed. Mugglestone also shows how the editors' own biases crept in with regard not only to proper usage but also to gender, race, and class. The result was a dictionary that, though great, did not always live up to its own ideals. This scholarly volume may not have the popular appeal of other books on the OED,0 but serious word lovers will appreciate its fascinating revelations. --Mary Ellen Quinn Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

How much blood, sweat and tears, not to mention time?49 years instead of the contracted 10?were invested in creating the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary! By revealing the storied history behind the formidable text, Mugglestone (Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent of Social Symbol) brings to life the histories of our lexicon and of the key players who painstakingly saw it into type. Central to the narrative are the numerous conflicts between the dictionary?s editors and the delegates of the 19th-century Oxford University Press. The subjects of these clashes ranged from finance to time (in the first seven years, the editors didn?t get past the letter ?b?) to concerns about space. The editors and delegates also struggled with issues of omission and correctness. For example, whereas the delegates protested the inclusion of ?bad English? (i.e., slang, popular phrases and scientific jargon), editor-in-chief James Murray held fast to his vision of an ?ideal dictionary? that would serve as an impartial, comprehensive inventory of the English language. This aspiration would prove elusive. Prudish Victorian norms prevailed over ?vulgar? terminology, and words like ?condom? were excised from the first edition, which was appropriately titled A New English Dictionary on Historical Principals. These battles are what make this book such a fascinating history, not only of how the OED came to be but of the cultural, racial and gender biases of the period. Though Mugglestone?s tone can be overly academic, bibliophiles who loved The Professor and the Madman will relish this account. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.


Review by Library Journal Review

Relying in part on newly discovered evidence from the Bodlein Library's Murray Papers and OED Archives, Mugglestone (English, Pembroke Coll., Oxford; Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol) gives us an up-to-date account of the making of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary and details its mythic reputation as a complete and unbiased inventory of English. Mugglestone demonstrates a sharp distinction between the ideal concept of the OED espoused by editor James A.H. Murray and others and the reality of the dictionary as published. Murray's marked-up proofs of the first edition, which show countless instances of judgment, selectivity, and bias, refute the stated goal of presenting the entire English word stock free of any prejudice. Through archival evidence Mugglestone illuminates the thousands of decisions regarding inclusion/exclusion, labeling, etymology, definitions, social and political biases, and limitations of money, space, and time that went into making the OED the extraordinary but still less than ideal reference imagined. Along the way, she offers a procedurally detailed history of the dictionary (preferable to that of K.M. Murray'sCaught in the Web of Words, also published by Yale). Highly recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Paul D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.