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#954 - 03/28/00 11:57 PM Lexicography  
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jeff Offline
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“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?



#955 - 03/29/00 12:29 AM Re: Lexicography  
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AnnaStrophic Offline
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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.




#956 - 03/29/00 10:15 PM Re: Lexicography  
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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.



#957 - 03/30/00 12:29 AM Re: Lexicography  
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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.


#958 - 03/30/00 03:13 PM Re: Lexicography  
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cadaver Offline
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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.


#959 - 03/31/00 09:19 PM Re: Lexicography  
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jeff Offline
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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?


#960 - 04/03/00 01:57 AM Re: Lexicography  
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gin Offline
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Be advised, Jeff...that 'lauditory' should be spelled
laudatory.


#961 - 04/03/00 02:42 PM Re: Lexicography  
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jeff Offline
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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.


#962 - 04/03/00 06:34 PM Re: Lexicography  
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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.

: )


#963 - 04/03/00 07:09 PM Re: Lexicography  
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jeff Offline
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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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