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#954 - 03/28/00 06:57 PM Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
“He that thinks with more extent than another, will want words of larger meaning.” --Samuel Johnson

“I take great delight in the dictionary. It’s truly a book full of keys which open the doors to stories, dreams and history—-a book woven with the threads of imagination. It’s strange that until now, no one I know, has advised me to read the dictionary as a masterpiece.” --Anais Nin, Diary, Oct. 11, 1911; age 16 and learning English as a second language.

Does anyone out there share my interest in lexicography? Has anyone read _The Art and Craft of Lexicography_ by Sydney Landau, _The Story of Webster's Third_ by Herbert C. Morton, or _Caught in the Web of Words_ by Elizabeth Murray? Other such books?



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#955 - 03/28/00 07:29 PM Re: Lexicography
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
How about "The Professor and the Madman" (published in the U.K. as "The Surgeon of Crowthorne"), by Simon Winchester? Fascinating account of the creation of the O.E.D.




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#956 - 03/29/00 05:15 PM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Thanks for your reply. I agree that Winchester has produced an interesting book with _The Professor and the Madman_. Impelled by an aggressive promotional campaign, Madman has attracted a wide readership. Aiming for a general audience however, the book touches only briefly on the methods employed in compiling the OED. Much of the book is apocryphal and conjectural, as it develops the tragic figure of W.C. Minor. For example, no one is privy to the actual conversations between James Murray and Dr. Minor. Nevertheless, as the book increases the public’s awareness of the lexicographer and his art, it serves a useful purpose, because until now, few people have given much thought to how dictionaries are made.

Elizabeth Murray, James Murray’s grand-daughter, has produced a more scholarly and informative book, in her biography, _Caught in the Web of Words: James A. H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary_. Ms. Murray admirably maintains her credibility through scrupulous research and by avoiding sensationalism. She refrains from over-indulgence in conjecture, and offers her opinion only while labeling it as such. She engages her reader by revealing the humanity of James Murray and the OED progenitors. Ms. Murray’s style is limpid and her prose is polished and eloquent, thus evincing a prodigious intellect and a truly artistic talent. I believe Web of Words is still in print and widely available, should you care to investigate.



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#957 - 03/29/00 07:29 PM Re: Lexicography
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Thank you, I'm familiar with 'Web of Words.' I worked as a lexicographer for many years, in the Portuguese language.
Winchester's is a work of historical fiction, and is winsome and awesome. Give him a break, as I try to do with Pavarotti and the popularization of Italian arias.
A sense of humor becomes us all, lexicographers and lay.


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#958 - 03/30/00 10:13 AM Re: Lexicography
cadaver Offline
stranger

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 23
Loc: Ohio USA
I was intrigued by the Murray-Minor story when I first read of it in Bill Bryson's "The Mother Tongue". While Bryson's book is not an exhaustive, scholarly work, it certainly is an entertaining look at English.


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#959 - 03/31/00 04:19 PM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi Anna,

I thought I was sufficiently lauditory toward Winchester's book in my post. My intention was merely to point out that more scholarly material is available, and leave it to the reader to act on it. I'm glad you are "familiar" with Web of Words. Does that mean you have perused it?


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#960 - 04/02/00 09:57 PM Re: Lexicography
gin Offline
stranger

Registered: 04/02/00
Posts: 8
Be advised, Jeff...that 'lauditory' should be spelled
laudatory.


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#961 - 04/03/00 10:42 AM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
As Mark Twain remarked, "I have no time for a man who can only spell a word one way", or something like that. Seriously, though, if it weren't for spell checkers, most of us would stumble over our orthography from time to time. Thanks for the astute observation -- I think.


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#962 - 04/03/00 02:34 PM Re: Lexicography
tsuwm Online   confused
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10523
Loc: this too shall pass
As Mark Twain also remarked, "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." But I digress.... When you asked Anna if she had "perused it" did you mean a) to examine or consider with attention and in detail, or b) to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner?

Sometimes attention to detail is an important matter.

: )


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#963 - 04/03/00 03:09 PM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi tsuwm,

As Mark Twain further remarked, "Hear and there a touch of good grammar, for picturesqueness".

To answer your question, yes. :-)

Sometimes attention to detail is important indeed! That’s why I asked the question using ‘perusal’ in the first place. Sometimes leaving a question a bit vague allows for a wider range of response. There is no right answer. I just wanted Anna to expand a bit on what she said about Web of Words. I would point out that besides the two senses of the word you offer, there is a third as listed in Merriam-Webster’s 10th Collegiate, i.e., “read; esp. to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner”. This is the sense I had in mind, but any of these would work. Attention to detail is only the first step. Learn to read like a poet and to see the written word in all its nuances of meaning. Doing so allows you to understand on more than one level.



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#964 - 04/04/00 07:39 AM Re: Lexicography
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
I think that the particularly good thing about Bill Bryson's book is that it doesn't read like some kind of textbook.

It is particularly good for people like me who haven't studied the english language as an academic subject since the age of 15. (I studied maths - and once met one of my lecturers in the library - he said it was the best place to go to get away from the department as mathematicians never went in there.)


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#965 - 04/05/00 06:16 PM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi Jo,

I enjoyed Bill Bryson's book, too. He does a good job of making the history of English accessible to the average reader. He has a witty style and a sense for what his readers will find entertaining. The book was something of a best seller in the US. In response to your claim (your bio) of finding the evolution of English fascinating, I think you would find Charlton Laird's little book, "The Miracle of Language" quite edifying. Laird is a lexicologist of the first order. I believe he studied in Edenburgh for a time. His book introduces the lay reader to the inner workings of language evolution, such as why it happens and in what ways. It demonstrates that although the process is usually imperceptibly slow, it is nonetheless inexorable. Laird incorporates many examples taken from his own research into English development and carefully leads the reader to a deep understanding of the processes at work. In spite of the somewhat difficult nature of the subject, he never loses sight of his reader. Laird’s style is a bit more scholarly than Bryson’s but he brings a sense of humor to the work, and has a gift for making his subject quite interesting.

Beware of other books with the same title. Laird’s “Miracle of Language” is, I believe, no longer in print, but it sold very well for some years, and so should be readily available for a few quid through http://abebooks.com, the best on-line source for used books. Most libraries should have it, although this book was published in the States and may not have found as warm a reception in the UK. Why this should be, I’m not sure, as the book is not biased toward American English.

In response to your bio, I tried to send you a personal note, but AWAD system reports that you are not accepting private messages. I guess you are too busy keeping up with email in your job. I have this problem too, but I always try to respond to personal email dealing with linguistics and lexicology. So far, I have not received many private missives, so it has not been a problem at all. At any rate, I can always turn off private messages later, if I find it too distracting.



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#966 - 04/05/00 07:34 PM Re: Lexicography
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Jeff, surely you're aware you're repeating yourself... on more than one board. No wonder some have turned off their 'private message' device. Long-winded pedant, heal thyself.


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#967 - 04/07/00 04:12 AM Re: Lexicography
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Thanks for the note Jeff, i'll look out for the book you mention. I'll turn messages on for a while. I am quite protective about my mail as I'm easily distracted and work from home (trying to fit work around coping with school-age children) - good earning time gets converted into flights of fancy with minimal effort!


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#968 - 04/14/00 06:27 PM Re: Lexicography
Hope Offline
stranger

Registered: 03/14/00
Posts: 3
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I am going to pick up the Bryson book mentioned. "A walk in the woods" was hilarious, anyone interested in hiking the AT would enjoy it - or anyone interested in a good laugh... laughed out loud. Funny I did not know Bryson had written on language... thanks for the tip.

HM
_________________________
HM

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#969 - 04/14/00 06:38 PM Re: Lexicography
jeff Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi Hope,

I hope you enjoy the book. You lost me though. What's "hiking the AT"?




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#970 - 04/14/00 07:37 PM Re: Lexicography
Hope Offline
stranger

Registered: 03/14/00
Posts: 3
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Sorry Jeff, A Walk in the Woods is about Bryson's adventure on the Appalachian Trail. He set out with an old friend to hike all 2000+ miles of trail... you'll have to pick up the book to find out what happens...

HM
_________________________
HM

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#971 - 04/15/00 08:31 PM Re: Lexicography
cadaver Offline
stranger

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 23
Loc: Ohio USA
Bryson tells a funny story about his move from the UK to the US. He grew up in Iowa but married a Brit while he was working there. They lived in the hinterlands of England where there were not a lot of services available. The day they moved in to their new house (Vermont? New Hampshire ?) they were all tired at the end of the day and he picked up the phone and ordered pizzas and drinks to be delivered. His wife and kids were agape when the delivery man arrived. They had never had food delivered to their home before. His wife considered the event and said "We are never leaving this place."


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#972 - 04/17/00 11:01 AM Re: Lexicography
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Ok, I'm asking for this as my Mother's Day gift. If all you
folks recommend it this much, it's got to be good!


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#973 - 04/18/00 04:05 AM Re: Lexicography
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
One of the things I admire about Bill Bryson's work is his even handedness (oh no, is that a word?) in his opinions of both sides of the Atlantic - he manages to simultaneously enter both cultures and stand apart from them so he can see both worlds as an outsider sees them.

I have been arguing (mainly over large quantities of red wine) with a friend who swapped lives with me some years ago (she came to London, I went to New York) about the relative merits of Britain and the USA in the same vein as Bryson.

I think the conclusion we have come to is that the world as we know it at the age of 21 is pretty well it. It is an age of total certainty where a lot of one's self confidence comes from the knowing "the way things are done". She was convinced that the best ten restaurants in the world were in New York, I thought that Paris might have got a look in. I knew how to spell "colour", she didn't. I won't go into all the arguments we had - it had taken us the next nineteen years to realise that "different" does not necessarily mean "wrong" - perhaps that is what "maturity" means.

One of the good things about this group is that we are interested to find out more about different uses of language, and grown up enough (I think) to recognise the value of knowing more about other ways of doing things.

It was fascinating to read Bill Bryson's account of travelling back to America, having been a foreigner abroad to find that on returning he had become a foreigner in his own country.



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#974 - 04/18/00 12:00 PM Re: Lexicography
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Jo,
I agree with your thoughts on tolerance. I was telling
someone the other day that I am much more accepting now
than I used to be, and that I guess it is a function of
aging. Though I can still get riled up about certain
things not being done the "right" way!

Thanks also for your gentle hints and reminders! A friend told me, "If we gave only grace, what else would the
world know?". That seems to be a workable philosophy to me.

We'll see whether you have the last 'word'. Ha!


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