The Word Detective: A Life in Words: From Serendipity to Selfie Paperback by John Simpson
Language is always changing. No one knows where it is going but the best way to future-cast is to look at the past. John Simpson animates for us a tradition of researching and editing, showing us both the technical lexicography needed to understand a word, and the careful poetry needed to construct its definition. He challenges both the idea that dictionaries are definitive, and the notion that language is falling apart. With a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at bureaucracy and an inclination to question the status quo, John Simpson gives life to the colourful characters at the OED and to the English language itself. He splices his stories with entertaining and erudite diversions into the history and origin of words such as 'kangaroo', 'hot-dog' , 'pommie', 'bicycle' , not ignoring those swearwords often classed as 'Anglo-Saxon' ! The book will speak to anyone who uses a dictionary, 'word people' , history lovers, students and parents.
From the Back Cover
'I enjoyed this book immensely. John Simpson is an engaging narrator, and the story he tells is full of interest for anyone who has a fascination for words, their origins, their meanings, the way we use them. The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the great wonders of the world, and to have the story of how the great vessel that was launched in the nineteenth century was brought up to date and set sailing confidently on the digital seas of the twenty-first told by its chief editor is a great treat' Philip Pullman
'A perfect title. According to the OED, a Sherlock is someone "who investigates mysteries or shows great perceptiveness". This aptly summarizes Sherlock Simpson, who tells the inside story of how that great dictionary has come to be written, illustrated by illuminating and sometimes daring word histories, and grounded in an engaging and moving autobiography. Anyone fascinated by words and their history will love it' David Crystal
'A charmingly full, frank and humorous account of a career dedicated to rigorous lexicographic rectitude . . . [Simpson] is an absolute hero' Lynne Truss, International New York Times
'Poignant . . . a sustained and sincere reflection on what it means to make a dictionary - the toil, the puzzles, the costs and the profits' Henry Hitchings, Guardian
The Word Detective: A Life in Words: From Serendipity to Selfie - About the Author
The author was Chief Editor of the OED and worked on the Dictionary for 37 years.