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Oxford English Dictionary Book Review

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Published February 25th 2013
A wordsmith's manual
My jazzed-up 7th edition OED

Standing the test of time, the OED had provided multiple generations with fantastic scrabble words and woeful essay introductions. Editor Maurice Waite must certainly be a patient man, for the seventh edition contains over 120,000 words. It doesn't however, contain page numbers, a bitterly disappointing revelation which I think hampers the practicality of the volume.

Narratively lacking but with a strong structure, the OED has tipped its hat to the dictionary tradition and opted for an alphabetised word list, which serves it well. It also earns a huge gold star for the somewhat amusing kindly-professor tone of the Preface, which assures the curious user that 'consulting a book can still be the quickest and most convenient way of finding the word that you want' despite basic Google searches taking approximately zero-point-two of a second to provide an answer. Such optimism in the face of modern technology is surely endearing. Furthermore, it advertises its dictionary as 'an enjoyable method of browsing in its own right', demonstrating a commitment to non-fiction far beyond the usual bounds. A final feather in its cap, the OED has recently added words such as 'defriend' and 'hashtag'. If you didn't already know what these mean, you're probably the type to reach for a book to find out, so I'd recommend you reach for this one.

Aha! Knowledge at my fingertips!

The interval to the main show comes in the form of a Fact Finder, which brings to mind the sort of educational 'games' available in early primary years. It's also got a list of People, aptly titled People, whose bounds are lax enough to include the half-man, half-bull Minotaur.

All in all, the OED is a worthwhile purchase. For gift-giving I'd exercise caution, unless you're blessed enough to be friends with lexophiles such as myself, who get a genuine kick out of knowing that an acronym is a pronounced word such as SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) whereas BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), which is pronounced as a series of individual letters, is not an acronym but an initialism. You heard it here first, folks.
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