Title: Dictionary People, The: The Unsung Heroes who created the Oxford English Dictionary
Author: OGILVIE SARAH
Publication date: 05/09/2023
Imprint: CHATTO & WINDUS
Publishing status: Active
This is an extraordinary story that’s arisen from the kind of archival discovery that academics dream of- uncovering the address books that reveal the names and lives of the strange volunteers who helped create the OED and shape the English language
What do three murderers, a pornography collector, Karl Marx’s daughter and a vicar found dead in the cupboard of his chapel have in common?
They all helped to create the Oxford English Dictionary.
The OED has long been associated with elite institutions and educated men. After all, these forces have dominated how we think about history. But the OED was compiled through crowdsourcing- its editors called on anyone and everyone to send in examples of word use. Those who responded lived hidden or uncelebrated lives- the women, the queers, the eccentrics, the autodidacts and the ordinary families who made word-collection their passion.
An astonishing discovery of the address books in which each contributor’s name is recorded leads Sarah Ogilvie to trace the strange, marginal lives led by the people who defined the English language. Who tells us what words mean, and who decides what stories get told?