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Monday, 9 March 2009, 12:00AM

The Meaning of Everything: The history of the Oxford English Dictionary

Professor Charlotte Brewer

The legendary Oxford English Dictionary today contains over 600,000 words and a staggering 2,500,000 illustrative quotations. A glorious, bursting treasure-house, the OED serves as a guardian of the literary jewels of the past, a testament to the richness of the English language today, and a guarantor of future understanding of the language.

In this lecture, Professor Charlotte Brewer will discuss the OED from the publication of the first edition in 1928, through to the metamorphosis of the dictionary into a twenty-first-century electronic medium. Brewer describes the difficulties of keeping the OED up-to-date over time and recounts the recurring debates over contentious words, public vs. scholarly expectations, sources of quotations, and changing editorial practices. With humour and empathy, she will portray the predilections and personalities of the editors, publishers, and assistants who undertook the Sisyphean task of keeping apace with the modern explosion of vocabulary. She will uncover a history no less complex and fascinating than the Oxford English Dictionary itself.

This lecture is a part of the Look it up yourself! A History of the Dictionary series, which celebrates the tercentenary of the birth of Samuel Johnson.
Other lectures in this 'Monday's at One' series include:
   Dr Johnson, I presume?
   After 150 Years: The topicality of Roget's Thesaurus
   From Dictionary User to Amateur Lexicographer: Possibilities of on-line searches

professor-charlotte-brewer

Professor Charlotte Brewer is the author of Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED and is the director of the Examining the OED project. The project's website can be found here:  http://oed.hertford.ox.ac.uk/

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9 March 2009

The Meaning of Everything: The history of the Oxford English Dictionary
Professor Charlotte Brewer

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