on 25 July 2013
The content of this book hardly needs commenting on as the complete OED is in a league of its own; its wide scope coupled with its impeccable scholarship makes it a powerful research tool in questions regarding for instance the historical development of the English language.
Physically it is a very large book, folio sized. To cram the entire 20-volume OED2 into a single volume, the text has been reproduced minutely, indeed - however, I found it much easier to use than previously expected. The spherical magnifier enclosed makes the print perfectly readable to me and it works very well, and I must admit that I do appreciate the almost archaic 'feel' this manner of reading produces for me at least. I do believe though, that people with poor eyesight might find it difficult to use, as the print is still rather small after magnification.
I can confidently say that having a resource as this at hand has greatly increased my working knowledge of the nuances present in older usage of English, as opposed to contemporary English. Words have changed meanings, which can be very problematic when reading texts that are centuries old - but fear not with the OED at hand.
This book is not cheap, but it is fairly priced in my opinion - it should be regarded as an intellectual investment rather than as a single book as I see it.
The only thing that I would like to see different with this volume is that the abbreviations employed in the book and other more often used reference material should have been printed in a booklet or other format to the same effect - for ease of use.
In short, I fully recommend the one-volume version of the OED2 for reasons stated above.
on 9 September 2013
A few things about who I am.
I was sorts of a prodigious child.
I learned and started to read at the age of 4 in 1984 with some help from the drawing cards published by the communist regime in Romania at the time. These had a capital letter on a side and an image on the other side. The first letter that would describe the image was exactly the letter on the back. G for goat, C for city and so on...a very efficient system of learning.
So that led me to higher learning. I now hold a bachelor degree in history and a master's degree in sociology from the Universities of Pitesti and Bucharest.
It was also ironic that my father, being a French teacher in Gymnasium, had first introduced me to French (Voltaire's language) from an early age, my contact with English (Shakespeare's language) occurring almost by accident. In 1989 the KGB organized a nasty coup d'état in Romania and Ceausescu was deposed as a consequence. The whole society changed overnight and in the summer of 1990 I saw the first arcade type American computer games, in English of course.
Now that I think about it, the first arcade games that I saw were the ones in the Black Sea resorts in the summer of 1986, but I was too small at the time to make any sense of them and the interaction time was limited to a few minutes, still enough time to leave a footprint in the brain in the form of a powerful memory.
Having no coins on me to use the games, we the smaller kids (I was 10 at the time) were hanging around the teenagers that were putting the arcades through their paces. I still remember the sensation, full colors, amazing sounds and the first English words that I was seeing on the screen: PLAY, NEXT, END, GAME OVER, LOADING, INSERT COIN and such. Of course at the time I had no idea what they meant. That was about to change...Talk about American modern imperialism, who needs guns to conquer a country when you have pc games to sell the youth the American pop culture and corrupt politicians at your disposal that are ready to sell the country for a few bucks? Funny how things work out in the long run...
For 3-4 years my results in school weren't as good as they used to due to the disruption of this extreme culture shock. I tended to hang on at the arcades far more time that was normal, sometimes the whole day, to the despair of my parents. But eventually I got a grip on myself and by the end of 1994 I broke the addiction and started preparing for the major exam that was about to grant me access to one of the elite high schools in Arges County. And films like Robocop, Predator or the Terminator, later the Matrix, were the perfect vessels for me to soak up this new Roman imperial language as I saw it then and still see it now.
By high school I had already started to read books in English, helped by my teacher who provided them of course and after the turn of the millennium, at the University, I moved on to far more sophisticated material: SF, quantum physics, history and such. Watching Star Trek or Star Wars without subs was also a nice idea. Also I had started to play more advanced pc games: Fallout, Half life, Tiberium Sun, Nexus, Homeworld, where the in-depth knowledge of the language was a prerequisite to make any sense of them. Take Fallout for example, there were many new words from all fields of science, argotic ones also. That was true for music, also. We were starting to understand something from the lyrics of Iron Maiden or Queen, both British bands and my opinion the best pros at what they did within a cultivated level of entertainment. A whole new and amazing world was opening right in front of our eyes, well at least to a few of us who were more on the balanced side of things, while the others in high school lost most of their time cramming for exams or in bars playing snooker and having way too much to drink.
My quarter century journey through the language must have been very similar to the one undertaken by millions of eastern Europeans of my generation. And this I know from my sociology studies. And maybe not only Eastern Europe...
I'd like to share here some of my first impressions after the purchase.
I bought this product from Romania and it arrived on sept. 5th, about a week after payment confirmation.
I also had a very big problem paying for it because one of my VISA cards (in USD) couldn't be processed by Amazon for whatever reason that I didn't really understand. I think it must have had something to do with the fact that it was issued by a Romanian bank BRD, affiliated with Société Générale from France. The other card that I had, this one was the card that I use to get my paycheck in LEU -the Romanian currency, worked fine and Amazon were able to subtract the amount converted to GBP.
I bought the product from Amazon really because I couldn't find this in Romania and also to bypass these severely inflated prices that we have. For some reason the Romanian government is taxing books with a 9% VAT. The VAT on books in the UK is ZERO. But this also didn't work! It would seem that Amazon taxed me with the Romanian VAT of all things at 9%! Add that to transport costs and what were 171 GBP turned into 196 GBP. I said fine... so be it and paid for the darn thing! You should also be aware that my monthly paycheck in Romania (I am currently employed as a museographer in my home town Curtea de Arges-working at the Princely Church Saint Nicholas as a guide-I now also speak French, Italian and English besides the native Romanian,) is now about 800 LEI, that's something like 154 GBP, so this was more than a month's pay for me!
Now about this edition.
What's really hard to understand is why they didn't add the 1993-1997 additions series to another reprint. Since they had the digital version of the text it would have seemed logical and easier to introduce the additions into another edition rather than printing them separately on normal print. This is one major reason of frustration. One can't believe that simple words like shuriken (used in older pc games from the 80's) don't exist in a half million words dictionary and they have to be put in supplements. Also looking in a 120 000 words Romanian dictionary, our biggest to date on the market, fails to produce simple Romanian words that I find in novels.
Since 2008 I am an owner of the Shorter OED that I bought in Romania from Lexis Oxford Center in Pitesti for about 310 LEU, that's 100 USD equivalent and at the time 60 GBP. Of course that when I started to find print and word mistakes in that 6th edition!!! printed in 2007 of the Shorter or missing some more technical words it started to annoy me and FAST. I had also bought that same year for my brother that studied English and French at the University in Pitesti the Longman Exams Dictionary as a day by day use dictionary.
The Compact arrived in a package from Amazon Germany it seems and the first thing that I saw on opening the parcel was that it had survived the transport fairly well although there were some scratches on the black protective case that I didn't like.
At least the dust jacket inside and the Dictionary were completely unscathed. The compact was completely sealed in a plastic foil that I didn't open just then. I opened instead the magnifying glass carton casing and looked at it. Mine came with a gold like colored metallic rim. On first inspection it looked ok but then, surprise. I also own other types of magnifying glasses and a pro microscope, a pro telescope and some spotting scopes so I'm on the geeky/nerdy side when it comes to glass. I have a Nikon D3200 and its lens was perfect out of the box. The japs really are little robots!
So I looked at the hemispheric chunk of glass closer and from different directions.
Unfortunately for me, I found that:
-the glass had a crack about 20 mm in diameter towards the side. A really nasty crack. I looked at the bottom of the metal ring and logically deduced the reason for the crack.
-the hemisphere was slanted, wasn't fully touching the bottom on all the circumference of the circle. That must have been when they tried to push it in place and the ring diameter was just a few hundred microns too small...or that was defective from the factory because I completed the push back on the side to force the half sphere down on the rim on its full diameter and that didn't cause a worsening of its preexisting condition.
I'll write to Amazon for another piece of magnifying glass and see what happens. I'll get back on that...
Trying to read the text with the provided glass you immediately see that the magnification factor is inadequate. The diameter of the reading magnifier is 60 mm and I think that if it were at least 80-100 mm it would provide a sufficient level of magnification for young readers like me in my early 30's. I can read the text but from dangerously up-close and that doesn't do it for the eye muscles on extended periods of reading like I'm used to. For those over 50, I'll say that even that wouldn't be enough and they'll have to move to 120-150 mm diameter magnifier.
The quality of the paper is good but not good enough! For a text that is in the micrometer range (lower than 1 mm for a letter) when you blow it up you see all the print errors and the bad paper. The paper quality at this level should have been that used in art reproductions albums and not that used for e.g. the Shorter OED. This is one very important aspect.
Now another thing. I suspect this is happening to all Compacts. When you look at the text page by page you see (at least I did!) that some pages are printed correctly (in a dark normal print) and others are printed very faded, like the printer was set to economy or something...That didn't happen to the Shorter and that was 50-60 pounds!
I can't determine if they used a modern laser burn printing or some other older technique (ink jet) but I suspect the latter is true.
Time and again I found letters missing between 20 to 80% of their entire body and sometime missing altogether. There are some mistakes, probably from key strokes on the digital text that made it in print! E.g.-a word has the - mark in the middle for no reason. So far I think I managed to read about 20 pages (and by that I mean all the 9 micro reduced pages on a page) at random throughout the dictionary and it is really frustrating to find missing letters from BAD PRINTING TECHNIQUES.
The fact is that this edition, in my opinion, is a bibliophile's paradise, coupled with the feel of moving the magnifier through the columns to read giving it as one of the commentators had correctly assessed it as an archaic feel. This idea of reading a diminutive text, magnified through optical means, appeared in Dune for the Orange Catholic Bible- my favorite SF magnum opus. But the concept of looking for a word in the digital age (of course I also own a tablet PC) in one of the 20 volumes would have been ridiculous, at least to me. When I look in the Shorter I sometimes forget that it's a 2 volume edition and when another word pops into mind I go sometimes to the end of it before realizing in horror that that word starts with a letter from the other paired volume. If it's annoying (to use an euphemism here) with 2 volumes you can imagine how it would feel with 20. It would defeat the purpose and it would have made me at least migrate to the digital version. I would NEVER buy the 20 vol. version regardless of low or high costs.
But for a bibliophile like me, the printed version still rules! Provided it's not too much of a botched job!
I have no comment for the binding. Although it is both glued and sown it should provide enough resistance through time and usage.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens with the OED 3 project. I'm hearing rumors that the print would be 50 volumes. That's just even more ridiculous if that's even possible than a 20 vol. print. Maybe they should think of reducing all that to 1 or 2 on some 5000+pages per volume, also micro graphically reduced in size. This is just a suggestion.
Apart from all these mishaps that are really cutting into the pleasure of exploring it, it remains of course an impressive feat of work. And for that I say it's ok, but not magnificent to behold as the reviews put it!
It's my thinking that this edition coupled with the 3 additions (not at the end but inserted in the main text in their proper places) and a larger diameter/size reading glass would be the winning combo here.
When I use a large dictionary like this one I look not for the commonly used words but for the rarest and more extreme vocabulary, be that in science or argotic speech. And on this, the BIG OED 2nd edition falters in a BIG way!
In the last quarter century the English language has more than doubled in terms of words. It's now estimated at more than 1 million words and unfortunately that's far more than the OED 2nd edition has inside its covers.
So it's like looking in a dictionary of the past that, even with the additions, couldn't keep up with the nuclear explosion of word creation and usage.
On the other side of the fence...
As an employee in the world of culture and having written a lot of scientific articles myself I greatly appreciate the work of a small collective of enthusiastic researchers that were entirely dedicated to one of the most important human aspects since the dawn of history: the transmission of the WRITTEN WORD!
And if it's true that history began with writing and the DACIANS here on the other side of the Roman Empire's frontier vallum knew how to read and write two millennia ago and if it's true that we've discovered in Transylvania in the 60's the Tartaria tablets that predate the Sumerian proto-alphabet by as much as 2 millennia, then it's also true that through an imperial irony of sorts the English language (as a bridge between the Germanic and the neo-Latin languages) has become even more appreciated and spoken by a larger number of citizens of the world than the ones actually living in the countries that flaunt it as their (still) national language !!!
I give it 3 out of 5 stars and I don't usually lose time writing reviews or comments but I felt that this magnum opus deserved one!