Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Professor and the Madman, fin.

The Professor and the Madman is the story of the main editor of the OED and his relationship with a civil war veteran quite rightly ensconced in a British insane asylum. Specifically Bethlehem Asylum, from which we have "bedlam".
It's a good book, but i think i didn't quite finish it. I stopped somewhere around page 200 of 240. The parts which most interested me were the descriptions of the process of compiling the OED, which took like eighty years and loads of work. Basically the OED put out the call to the public for submissions of exemplary citations of words, any words, big words, small words, but particularly exemplary. From the thousands and thousands and thousands of submissions, the editors traced the histories of each meaning of each word. - Except for the editors it was pretty much like Wiktionary. One of the best contributors also happened to be criminally insane man. That's pretty much the story.


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