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Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages

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An obsessive word lover's account of reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary, hailed as "the Super Size Me of lexicography."

"I'm reading the OED so you don't have to," says Ammon Shea on his slightly masochistic journey to scale the word lover's Mount Everest: the Oxford English Dictionary. In 26 chapters filled with sharp wit, sheer delight, and a documentarian's keen eye, Shea shares his year inside the OED, delivering a hair-pulling, ...

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Overview

An obsessive word lover's account of reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary, hailed as "the Super Size Me of lexicography."

"I'm reading the OED so you don't have to," says Ammon Shea on his slightly masochistic journey to scale the word lover's Mount Everest: the Oxford English Dictionary. In 26 chapters filled with sharp wit, sheer delight, and a documentarian's keen eye, Shea shares his year inside the OED, delivering a hair-pulling, eye-crossing account of reading every word.

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Editorial Reviews

Nicholson Baker
an oddly inspiring book about reading the whole of the Oxford English Dictionary in one go…Shea's book offers more than exotic word lists, though. It also has a plot. "I feel as though I am eating the alphabet," he writes halfway through, and you want him to make it to the end. This is the "Super Size Me" of lexicography.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

This chronicle reads half like the journey of a madman and half like a word-of-the-day calendar. In it, Shea (coauthor, Depraved English; Insulting English) wittily describes his headache-inducing descent into the 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary(OED), which he spent a full year reading. Shea sees a dictionary as a work of literature whose words are all alphabetized, and here, he offers readers a rare glimpse into the most obscure corners of the English language, from oddities such as cellarhood(to be a cellar) to the curious quisquilious(garbagelike). Many of these words are modern yet underused gems, but some are so obscure that the OED does not even include a corresponding pronunciation key owing to the word's lack of circulation in recent history. Regular use of these bizarre, sometimes long-forgotten words, writes Shea, will neither inspire advanced social status nor wisdom. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—David L. Reynolds

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615582259
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/5/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ammon Shea is the author of two previous books on obscure words, Depraved English and Insulting English (written with Peter Novobatzky). He read his first dictionary, Merriam Webster’s Second International, ten years ago, and followed it up with the sequel, Webster’s Third International. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 15, 2011

    Invigorating!

    Such an interesting read! Def. add it to your books of 'must reads'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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