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July 9, 2009

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A Treasure-House of Language

I don’t have a lot of criteria for friendship, but the one characteristic I think is invariant is a love of and care for language. If you don’t take pleasure or find intellectual satisfaction in how words are strung together - maybe even especially written words - then you and I are quickly going to run out of things to say to or do with each other.

So that said, I think a good index of both your wordnerdery and the likelihood of the two of us becoming and remaining fast friends is your excitement in reading about the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, which will be published - in two glorious volumes! - this fall:

The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press, is the culmination of 44 years of painstaking work by scholars at the University of Glasgow.

It not only groups words with similar meanings but does so in chronological order according to their history - with the oldest first and most recent last. According to its publisher, the OED, it’s the largest thesaurus in the world and the first historical thesaurus in any language.

With 800,000 meanings, 600,000 words and more than 230,000 categories and sub categories, it’s twice as big as Roget’s version.

And if that doesn’t have him turning in his grave, it also contains almost every word in English from Old English to the present day, or 2003 to be precise - the cut-off date for the new dictionary.

The largest thesaurus resource in the world, covering more than 920,000 words and meanings based on the Oxford English Dictionary The very first historical thesaurus to be compiled for any of the world’s languages from medieval times through the present Synonyms listed with dates of first recorded use in English, in chronological order, with earliest synonyms first For obsolete words, the Thesaurus also includes last recorded use of word Uses a thematic system of classification Comprehensive index enables complete cross-referencing of nearly one million words and meanings Contains a comprehensive sense inventory of Old English Includes a free fold-out color chart which shows the top levels of the classification structure Made up of two volumes: The main text, comprising numbers sections for semantic categories, and the index, comprising a full A-Z look up of nearly one million lexical items

Sweet mercy. Bless you marvelous pedants and this magnificent thing you have made.

Tim-sig.gif
Posted July 9, 2009 at 5:48 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Language, Learnin'

Comments

I am not as much of a language nerd by half (but then again, 0.5 units of language nerd-ness on the Carmody scale is still pretty huge) -- but yes, this looks amazing. And actually, way more interesting than the OED. As as kid I would flip through the thesaurus as often as I'd flip through the dictionary. (We all did both of those things, right? Right.)

I could get a netbook, or I could get this wonderful beast. This is a hard decision. I'm a bit disappointed that I can't have both, but maybe a digital version just spoils the experience.
Thanks for finding this.

Posted by: Jake on July 9, 2009 at 10:34 PM
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