Top positive review
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The very best dictionary for most users
on 1 January 2005
This is probably the definitive dictionary to find in popular use. The 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary sets the overall standard, but a 20 volume set is rarely going to be found outside a library. No, for the literate domestic user, for the professional writer, for anyone with a love of words, the "Shorter Oxford" is the gold standard in dictionaries.
'Shorter', in this instance, means two volumes and a CD-ROM. 'Shorter', in this instance, means that as well as comprehensive definitions of each word, you also get a history of the language - when was the word first recorded in use, examples of quotations, examples of changing usage, and even some pronunciation help from the CD-ROM.
The range of words included in the two volumes should more than satisfy anyone but the odd specialist scholar. There is a wide range of scientific words - including floccinaucinihilipilification, a word made famous by television quiz games a few years ago. There is extensive coverage of non-English English. You'll find recent additions to the language - 'Taliban', and 'Prozac', and 'Jedi'. You even get 'grassy knoll', 'road rage', 'snail mail', and 'text message'. These last four demonstrate how quickly words and phrases can be absorbed into everyday usage - and 'grassy knoll' reminds you that words don't just have a definition, they have a context.
It's here that the "Shorter Oxford" exerts its authority and establishes its pre-eminent role as the best dictionary available to the general public. It doesn't just provide sound definition - a lot of excellent dictionaries do that. The "Shorter Oxford" delivers an authoritative description and analysis of the word in context, going beyond comprehensive definition. If you love words, there is endless enjoyment in simply sitting reading this dictionary. I regularly pluck a volume off the shelf to check a meaning ... then find myself engrossed. Get a life? Try looking that up in the dictionary.
Not the cheapest of packages, but undoubtedly the best. This is the dictionary to which you should aspire. Beautifully printed (though you may find you need glasses to read the small print), highly accessible, fine quality paper (flimsy, yet very durable), and with that added cachet of gravitas and intellectual respectability which will impress visitors! Combining CD-ROM and books makes this a doubly useful package - the two volumes will not fit comfortably on your average desk-top, and certainly not in a drawer, but having the CD running while you write at your computer is very useful. A substantial package, not portable by any means, but solid and homely, and a treasure to own.