Publication Date: 07/09/2023 ISBN: 9781784744939 Category:

The Dictionary People

Sarah Ogilvie

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication Date: 07/09/2023 ISBN: 9781784744939 Category:


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‘Enthralling and exuberant … Here is a wonder-book for word-lovers’ Jeanette Winterson

‘A lively, entertaining, and illuminating read. I loved it’ Susie Dent

What do three murderers, Karl Marx’s daughter and a vegetarian vicar have in common?
They all helped create the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary has long been associated with elite institutions and Victorian men. But the Dictionary didn’t just belong to the experts; it relied on contributions from members of the public. By 1928, its 414,825 entries had been crowdsourced from a surprising and diverse group of people, from astronomers to murderers, naturists, pornographers, suffragists and queer couples.

Lexicographer Sarah Ogilvie dives deep into previously untapped archives to tell a people’s history of the OED. Here, she reveals, for the first time, the full story of the making of one of the most famous books in the world – and celebrates the extraordinary efforts of the Dictionary People.

** A Financial Times, TLS and Daunt Books Book of the Year 2023 **

‘Utterly fascinating, entertaining, astonishing and as clever as a box of monkeys … I completely love it’ Joanna Lumley

‘Full marks to Sarah Ogilvie… guaranteed to grab those of us obsessed with books, language and mystery’ Financial Times

‘[An] astonishing book’ Sunday Times

‘Touching … The oddities [of language] enliven the book’ Observer *Book of the Day*

‘[An] affectionate and accomplished book’ TLS

‘Engaging’ Spectator

‘Marvellous, witty and wholly original’ Alan Rusbridger

‘Glorious and surprising’ Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian and author of Burning the Books

‘A fascinating and delightful exploration of the Victorian world … Wonderful’ Nicola Shulman, TLS Podcast

Publisher Review

'Utterly fascinating, entertaining, astonishing and as clever as a box of monkeys... I am bowled over by Sarah Ogilvie's book and every home should have a copy. I completely love it' * Joanna Lumley * 'Who knew such mysteries lay behind the Oxford English Dictionary? This is a fascinating, unique and original book which uncovers the people behind the words. A jaw-dropping cross-section of society are revealed for the first time in all their complexity' * Janina Ramirez, author of Femina * Exquisitely written ... A lively, funny book full of eccentrics * Jamaica Kincaid * Enthralling and exuberant, Sarah Ogilvie tells the surprising story of the making of the OED. Philologists, fantasists, crackpots, criminals, career spinsters, suffragists, and Australians: here is a wonder-book for word-lovers * Jeanette Winterson * I love words and I cherish my OED ... having the background of it explained was fascinating * Val McDermid * Astonishing * Kathryn Hughes, The Sunday Times * Fascinating * Observer * 'An erudite and vivid exploration of the origins of the OED in the first crowdsourcing of contributions from thousands of individuals - including murderers, lunatics and cannibals. Marvellous, witty and wholly original' * Alan Rusbridger * 'Sarah Ogilvie has brought to light in glorious and surprising detail the creation of one of the greatest reference works of all time. She has laboured in the archives to reveal a new history - one that illuminates the astonishing stories of the extraordinary men and women who gave us the OED' * Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian and author of Burning the Books * 'Ogilvie introduces us to a remarkable cast of overlooked and unexpected lives, woven together by a common devotion to a project far ahead of its time. Lovers of history and language will delight in the discoveries Ogilvie shares with us-an alphabetical page turner!' * Casper Grathwohl, President, Oxford Languages, OUP *

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