Top 10 dictionaries

Image result for The Hacker’s Dictionary 1971The popular 18th-century lexicographer Nathaniel Bailey had trouble with some definitions. When he came to “spider” he copped out, with “an Insect well known”. Mind you, he had already dug deep into his reference file and told us that a cherry was “a fruit well known”. Nowadays dictionaries are, for the most part, serious, sober documents, with little room for excitement. But words are fun; language is fun. The Word Detective is my story of how a naive Eng Lit student with an inherent distrust of old-style academia landed an editorial job on the Oxford English Dictionary back in 1976, and gradually became engrossed in the people, the friendships, the words, the places and how the OED itself gradually adapted to the digital era.

These are 10 of the books that helped me along the way, and which showed me that I wasn’t the first person to discover there was more to lexicography than meets the eye.

1. Robert Cawdrey’s A Table Alphabeticall (1604)

2. BE’s New Dictionary of the Canting Crew (1699)

3. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

4. Oxford English Dictionary (1884-)

5. Henry Yule and Arthur Coke Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson (1886)

6. James Redding Ware’s Passing English of the Victorian Era (1909)

7. Frank Gelett Burgess’s Burgess Unabridged (1914)

8. The Hacker’s Dictionary (1971)

9. Robert Allen’s Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (1981)

10. The Urban Dictionary (1999–)

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autor: John Simpson

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