I finished reading “Reading the OED” yesterday. It took much less time for me to read about the reading of the OED than it took the guy to actually read it. I appreciate his gargantuan effort and will be forever indebted to him for doing something I could have never worked up enough gumption to even begin, much less finish.
When Ammon Shea started his reading project, he had years of experience of reading dictionaries behind him. That helped immensely, I’m sure. Think of reading the Oxford English Dictionary like you would think of running a marathon. If you had not logged in many miles of running beforehand, how could you ever develop the strength and stamina to complete such a long and arduous feat? You could not. Likewise, many hours of reading dictionaries must be spent in order to prepare for the ultimate dictionary reading experience. Shea set aside one entire year to complete his project. He completed his reading marathon within the allocated time. The grueling nature of the project is amply presented within the pages of “Reading the OED.”
I took away from the book a pretty good idea of what Shea went through during that year. His chapters, titled with letters of the alphabet, aptly convey his thoughts and challenges while working his way through the massive lexicon. At the end of each chapter, he provides a list of words that he found particularly interesting in that section of the OED. All of the words are interesting, but some, regrettably, are pretty much unusable. Those are the words whose meanings have little relevance in today’s world or whose meanings most of us would rarely if ever have to convey in conversation or writing. But some of the words describe people or events or ideas that we deal with every day. For some reason, most of those words are not in common use even though they are perfectly good and precisely descriptive. I made a list of some of my favorites of Shea’s favorites and put them to work. They are contained herein:
A certain philodox (who is also a champion sarcast) stupefies the sequacious hordes with a dazzling wonderclout. The supreme pick-mote, he rants and vilifies others as only a quintessential selfist can do. Some of us, however, see him as Somnificator Extraordinaire, and believe (or at least hope that) his paracme is upon him. Several prends in the armor indicate weakness. A righteous scrupulant could finish him off.
If you figure out what the red words mean, you might possibly be able to identify the subject of my paragraph. If so, you will probably identify the subject of my paragraph via your own filters and preconceptions. That’s OK.
Now that I’m finished with “Reading the OED,” I’ve started another tome: “Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization” by Lars Brownworth. More about that in a subsequent installment.