Customer Review

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of its class, 1 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Oxford Dictionary of English (Hardcover)
[This review is based on the 2005 2nd edition. I'm confident that the 2010 3rd edition will be just as good.]

Beats the competition (Chambers Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary) on price (when I wrote this ...) and on competence as a dictionary. The encyclopaedic entries are better than Collins (which ignores people for this purpose) and Chambers which simply doesn't have any.

Definitions are clear, there are 20-odd appropriate appendices, and some daft stories like "Port out, Starboard home" are quietly dealt with. Sample definition differences: "axel" (ice skating jump) - Oxford and Collins name the edges involved, whereas Chambers just says "from one skate to the other"; trombone (shape thereof): Chambers has the tube "bent twice on itself, with a slide", Collins has "a tube, the effective length of which is varied by means of a U-shaped slide", and Oxford has "straight tubing in three sections, ending in a bell over the player's left shoulder, different fundamental notes being made using a forward-pointing extendable slide". Oxford's seems clearest, with "extendable" a crucially important word in conveying what happens, and the right sense of "bell" clearly explained too.

There are informative usage notes dealing with issues like the difference between life assurance and life insurance, the incorrectness of "you should of asked" (under "of", and cross-referenced under "should"), confusions like site/sight and your/you're, sensitive stuff like Lapp/Sami, informal words like "innit", and grammar niggles like "a sandwich or other snack is included" vs. "a sandwich and other snack are included". Looking at a random selection of these, every one seems both appropriate and based on experience of mistakes that people make or questions that often arise. There are also short factual notes about all sorts of topics - as the dictionary's introduction recognises, these are arguably content for an encyclopaedia rather than a dictionary, but they don't seem to get in the way. Examples: blood - what it's made of and what roles the components play, and its former role as a "bodily humour"; Beethoven - his main works, special nature of the 9th symphony, and bridging role between classical and romantic movements; Barium - what some of its compounds are used for; Bangladesh - dates when it broke away from Pakistan and joined the Commonwealth; black holes - a crisp explanation of how they ("probably") work.

All-in-all great compromise between the scholarship of the OED and the common sense of the Concise Oxford. Unless you're mad about crosswords or other word games based on Chambers, once you've got this you're set up with a dictionary which will serve all purposes for a couple of decades at least.

It may seem odd that there's no "Look Inside" option for this book. But there's great substitute - if you search the web for "Oxford Dictionaries", you'll find the new Oxford Dictionaries Online website which uses this dictionary as its source (for the "World English" option).
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 May 2012 15:39:00 BDT
D. Jackson says:
A proper dictionary is not an encyclopaedia.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Aug 2012 14:04:55 BDT
Including encyclopaedic entries is not the same as being an encyclopedia. Next time you're in a bookshop which stocks this dictionary, have a look at the "Encyclopaedic material" section of the Introduction, which deals eloquently with this objection. It includes the statement: "The information given is the kind of information that people are likely to need from a dictionary, however that information may be traditionally classified."
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