Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book 30: Reading the OED

Book 30: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 pages, by Ammon Shea

The OED, or Oxford English Dictionary, is enormous. 21,730-pages-enormous, to be exact. Along the same vein as A.J. Jacobs's The Know-it-All, wherein Jacobs reads the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica in a year, Shea takes one year to read the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED contains over 600,000 entires; its goal, when first published, was to include every word in the English language. Its goal was to eliminate:
  • Incomplete coverage of obsolete words
  • Inconsistent coverage of families of related words
  • Incorrect dates for earliest use of words
  • History of obsolete senses of words often omitted
  • Inadequate distinction among synonyms
  • Insufficient use of good illustrative quotations
  • Space wasted on inappropriate or redundant content.
 As such, it's enormous. Obviously.

Unlike Jacobs's Know it All, though, Shea's book was less a tale of personal discovery and mostly a compilation of interesting words. Words like "unbepissed," meaning...not having been pissed on. Apparently not only did someone feel the need to come up with "bepissed," meaning "having been pissed on," but they also wanted to describe the state of not having been pissed on. Awesome?

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