- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 7 hours and 15 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 11 July 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0072J46MA
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Meaning of Everything Audiobook – Unabridged
|New from||Used from|
Audio Download, Unabridged
|Free with your Audible trial|
Customers who bought this item also bought
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Simon Winchester is by far one of my favorite authors because, as a great writer should be able to do, he can turn the most mundane topics into narrative masterpieces. He has done this so many times before and he has certainly done it again with this book. I have already read it twice. It is a truly absorbing read and five stars is not enough!
This is a publication still in progress. The OED now has plans for a BBC television show that hunts for words and word origins; the website edition of the OED is in constant revision and very heavily used. According to the OED, 'The Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past. It traces the usage of words through 2.5 million quotations from a wide range of international English language sources, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.' How did it come to have such authority in the English language?
One thing to consider about the difference between English and a language such as French is that there is no definitive central authority that has official imprimatur over linguistic matters. Unlike the French Academe (which does itself have to bow ultimately to public convention in matters of common use), English has been for most of its time a flexible, fluid language born of competing strands within the Indo-European language family - words have Germanic, Latinate, Celtic, Greek and other influences; in the more recent times, Native American, African and Asian words have crept into common use.
Winchester's book gives a look at the early days of the development of the major project, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the kind of language world in which this project would exist. How does one trace English language words from a diverse island of speakers who have expanded beyond that island to become a worldwide empire?
Winchester's prologue gives a good story of the inauguration of the first edition (then twelve volumes, described as 'twelve mighty tombstone-sized volumes') of the OED in the Goldsmith Hall, with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin presiding over a grand ceremony fit for a king on Derby Day. The then editor-in-chief William Craigie had been knighted and given an honourary degree from Oxford in recognition of his efforts; however, he had not been at the helm for the duration, for the task of coming to this point had begun over 70 years before - William Craigie had yet to be born when the OED project started.
Winchester gives a short description of the history and state of the language, including earlier attempts to produce dictionaries. 'Not one of them - not Johnson, not Webster, not Richardson - ever did the English language justice.' None came close to containing all the words in the English language. The pursuit of a thorough dictionary began as a pursuit 'both learned and leisured'. Progress was slow, and sometimes looked as though the whole process might falter - indeed, in the first twenty years, a mere 40 pages were in type, although hundreds of thousands of words had been collected and organised in note card fashion, stored in pigeon-holes. There were issues early that threatened the comprehensive nature of the dictionary project - Herbert Coleridge, the first editor, had moral objection to certain words being included. These were not the typical curse words, but rather words like 'devilship'. Coleridge died young, however, 'on the quintessentially English date of 23 April - both the Feast of St. George and the birthday of Shakespeare'. Coleridge's estimate of 100,000 quotations was a grand underestimate, but he did set the project on a trajectory from which it would eventually succeed.
Perhaps the most interesting characters part of this tale are Fitzedward Hall, a hermit who was obsessed with the OED project, and William Chester Minor, a murderer-lunatic whose involvement in the project was nothing short of remarkable. One can imagine that were Hall alive today, he would be obsessively glued to a computer screen tracking down words and word origins and typing up little emails to submit to the OED editorial team. Minor's way of reading, described here by Winchester, reminds me in many ways of the method by which internet reviewers sometimes size up books in preparation for writing reviews, with prodigious regularity.
This is a wonderful text, fascinating in the many details and broad in scope of the project that in many ways encompassed the whole of the English language.
Most recent customer reviews
It was worth reading but I found the style irritating. Far to many words say very little. I think he swallowed a dictionary.