Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reading the OED: a review

Since I finished Reading the OED last weekend, I figured I'd write a bit about it. It was pretty entertaining, although there was not enough substance to it for it to be particularly lovable. The book is organized into 26 chapters (plus forward and afterward), one for every letter of the alphabet. Each chapter has a story about reading this particular letter, about something that happened at the time, or just plain musings on the OED and dictionaries in general. He talks about his dictionary-induced health problems, his search for the perfect reading place, his dictionary-induced insanity, attending a conference of lexicographers, the history of the OED, an excess of coffee, and other things besides. He's an entertaining writer. Each little story is followed by a list of his favourite words from that letter, with definitions and his rather entertaining and snarky comments on them and their uses.

Since I knew that there would be words in here that I would spend years trying to remember if I didn't write them down, I started making a list. Here are a couple of my favourites.
Curtain-lecture - "A reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed."

Resistentialism - "The seemingly aggressive behaviour of inanimate objects."

Sanscullotic - "Clothed inadequately."

Unbepissed - "Having not been urinated on."

Apricity - "The warmth of the sun in winter."

The fact that Firefox's spellchecker recognizes none of these words is mildly entertaining, but then, it doesn't know "snarky" either.

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