The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary

Books on Tape. Oct. 2023. 11:09 hrs. ISBN 9780593788561. $95. LANG
Lexicographer Ogilvie (Oxford Univ.; Words of the World) presents the story of the uncelebrated, sometimes unknown contributors behind the Oxford English Dictionary. The massive, crowdsourced effort to create the first edition of the dictionary in the 19th century included people of all walks, from clergy to cannibals, who largely participated on a volunteer basis. But who did the most? Who did it the best? Ogilvie profiles these linguists and laypeople and the sacrifices they made in service to the OED. She highlights their triumphs and failures, such as the dictionary’s embarrassing—but intentional—omission of “appendicitis,” which seemed like a good idea until King Edward VII’s coronation was delayed by the affliction. A brief introduction is read by the author herself, while narrator Joan Walker reads each richly detailed entry, from “archaeologists” to “zealots.” Walker’s voice is expressive, upbeat, and elegant, an excellent match to Ogilvie’s informative and engaging text.
VERDICT This audio will appeal to logophiles and listeners seeking accessible, engaging arts and entertainment nonfiction. Recommended for fans of witty word nerd prose and podcasts, such as Kathryn and Ross Petras’s You’re Saying It Wrong.
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