Reading the OED

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Reading the OED

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:42 am

Reading the OED: Ammon Shea

ONE MAN, ONE YEAR, 21 730 PAGES.
Some people collect Matchbox cars or comic books. Others collect more obviously valuable things, such as rare paintings or cars. Most of these collections are made up of tangible objects, things to which one can assign some sort of monetary value.

I collect words.

One could also say I collect word books, since by last count I have about a thousand volumes of dictionaries, thesauri, and assorted glossaries, but I don’t see that as a collection.
.. aha I thought, I have discovered Ken’s nom-de-plume .. and at times as I laughed my way through this rollicking read I more than once hesitated and thought of Ken .. but unlike Ken our Ammon is definitely a person who is located somewhere on the spectrum .. for not only does the author reveal the inner workings of the OED but gives a personal insight into the kind of person who would take on the mammoth task of sitting and reading the OED for 10 hours each day for 12 months .. his priceless exposition (p63-67) of how he selected the library in which he would base himself to read the OED is as good a comedy skit as you would be likely to find written by Mr Python himself .. and it was here for instance that I thought, Ken would know these places, he would know the 42nd Street branch of the NY City Library .. he has probably been to each of the 9 libraries situated on the campus of Columbia University and he may have even been into the basement of the Hunter College library where Ammon finally settled .. who knows? ..

.. so what can you expect ?? .. you can expect to be amused, to be shocked, delighted and to find yourself laughing loud enough for people to turn and look at you curiously .. you will want to find someone to whom you can tell the new word that has just shook your fancy .. or explain how you have just found the perfect phrase to describe your local politician, ”She is a sequacious ambidexter given to being nod-crafty.” .. or yourself ”I now think of myself as an umbriphilious residentarian who has a touch of palaeolatry.” .. or your fellow word wizards, ”Are they chrestomathic dulcarnons who individually harbour a mumpsimus?” .. or you may find new examples of those words that simply feel good in your mouth (onomatomania or quisquilious) ..

.. and the wonder of verbs that capture the essential feeling of the moment .. to fornale, to quomodocunquize .. think world financial crisis .. to gymnologize .. think solution to the Palestinian crisis, or other hot spots .. to lant .. think the beginning of WWIII if it happened in Bob’s neck of the woods .. the list is wonderful and provocative ..

.. but then all good books do come to an end .. so what to do now ?? .. maybe there is another good book to read ?? .. how does this sound ..
(a book where) within its pages I would find everything I had ever looked for in a novel: joy and sorrow, laughter and frustration, and the excitement and contentment that is unique to great storytelling.
.. where could I hope to ever find such a book ?? .. well in the words of Ammon Shea ..
The OED exceeded all of these hopes and expectations. It is the greatest story ever told.
WoZ .. settling down to read

Reading the OED. Ammon Shea. Viking, 2008. ISBN 9780670073375 (hbk)
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:27 pm

Failing the OED, try the telephone directories for Bombay, London and New York...
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by p. g. cox » Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:37 am

WoZ,
I thought the subject seemed familiar and remembered that I had posted Mr. Shea's exploits in October last (under Miscellaneous); when I found an article to that effect in the London Daily Telegraph. You didn't post a response at the time so I suppose you had gone walkabout.
Nonetheless, I am glad to see it revived, through his book publication, as I thought it to be an incredible feat of perseverance.
It is in stark contrast to the OUD's abridgement of its children's dictionary. From the siblime to the ridiculous.

[[See Pete's posting Read the dictionary -- Forum Moderator]]
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by p. g. cox » Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:52 am

Erik,
I tried that once, terrible plot and too large a cast.
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:40 am

.. hi p. g. .. not revived mate .. your post in October last year gave my cats the purfect idea for a Chrissy pressie for their slave .. and there you go on Chrissy Day under the tree .. it wasn't a toe-cover but something worth receiving ..

.. Erik I imagine the phonebook would run into the same problem as Ammon Shea observes about the Bibliography of the OED .. "..... (it) has no overt personality. It was about as exciting as reading the family tree of someone you do not know or care about at all." .. just as I thought ..

WoZ
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by p. g. cox » Thu Jan 15, 2009 12:47 am

Just got the book WoZ, and am wading happily through it. I am wondering if he will refer to the surgeon of Crowthorne.
As an aside, I was looking at the caretaker job for Hamilton Island but the web site had overloaded and crashed. At $A150,000 it sounds too good to be true but apparently isn't.
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Re: Reading the OED

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:51 am

.. p. g. I won't spoil your enjoyment by answering your query .. and Hamilton Island ?? .. yep too bloody great ay .. apart from the occasional cyclone or sea wasp and the omniverous obnoxious tourists it does look just like the dream job .. must be some catch .. hmmmm .. vacuuming the beach, weeding under the palm trees, painting the headland .......

WoZ on the local beach

Ref: job description
site crash
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