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katlaughing Thought for the day - December 23, 2000 (10) Thought for the day - December 23, 2000 23 Dec 00


As amazed as I am at the Internet and what all goes into creating it, I am equally amazed at what I am learning from a book, The Professor and the Madman, which Sourdough recommended in another thread. It is about the making of the first Oxford English Dictionary, its editor, James Murray, and Dr. William Chester Minor, a criminally insane surgeon and murderer who contributed massive amounts of information for inclusion. He did so without Murray or anyone else knowing for almost twenty years that he was incarcerated at Broadmoor, the notorious asylum for the criminally insane in England.

It took 70 years to produce the completed project, although initial parts were published along the way. It took literally tens of thousands of volunteers spending untold hours reading books and newspapers and magazines from cover to cover while making handwritten notes on every word they read. It was a massive undertaking just in paper volume alone.

They had 1,029 pigeonholes built for slips of paper which had the well organised information about each word on them, sent in by the volunteers. They received an average of 1,000 slips per day, when the editor, Murray, really got the project going. Eventually they wound up with 414,825 precise definitions with complete etymology and several examples of different uses of each word, most being the very first known examples of each particular use and meaning for each word.

It is a fascinating book which focuses mostly on the two men and their long-distance relationship in creating such a work, with liberal amounts of explanation of what it entailed. Just incredible. A magificient undertaking which most people just take for granted these days.

Something to think about...kat


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