The Meaning of Everything

Written by:
Simon Winchester
Narrated by:
Simon Winchester

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
January 2004
7 hours 19 minutes
From the best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa comes a truly wonderful celebration of the English language and of its unrivaled treasure house, the Oxford English Dictionary. 

Writing with marvelous brio, Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language--'so vast, so sprawling, so wonderfully unwieldy'--and pays homage to the great dictionary makers, from 'the irredeemably famous' Samuel Johnson to the 'short, pale, smug and boastful' schoolmaster from New Hartford, Noah Webster. He then turns his unmatched talent for story-telling to the making of this most venerable of dictionaries. In this fast-paced narrative, the reader will discover lively portraits of such key figures as the brilliant but tubercular first editor Herbert Coleridge (grandson of the poet), the colorful, boisterous Frederick Furnivall (who left the project in a shambles), and James Augustus Henry Murray, who spent a half-century bringing the project to fruition. Winchester lovingly describes the nuts-and-bolts of dictionary making--how unexpectedly tricky the dictionary entry for marzipan was, or how fraternity turned out so much longer and monkey so much more ancient than anticipated--and how bondmaid was left out completely, its slips found lurking under a pile of books long after the B-volume had gone to press. We visit the ugly corrugated iron structure that Murray grandly dubbed the Scriptorium--the Scrippy or the Shed, as locals called it--and meet some of the legion of volunteers, from Fitzedward Hall, a bitter hermit obsessively devoted to the OED, to W. C. Minor, whose story is one of dangerous madness, ineluctable sadness, and ultimate redemption.

The Meaning of Everything is a scintillating account of the creation of the greatest monument ever erected to a living language. Simon Winchester's supple, vigorous prose illuminates this dauntingly ambitious project--a seventy-year odyssey to create the grandfather of all word-books, the world's unrivalled uber-dictionary.
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Simon Winchester's, THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING, is entertaining as well as scholarly. Winchester reads it beautifully, adding to the charm. If you love words and their origins, you will love listening to this book!

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Paul Crabtree

Unexpectedly fascinating, this is a title I was surprised to enjoy so thoroughly. Perceptively recounted, and written and spoken with great affection, I found the whole thing enthralling. I would never have guessed such a potentially dry subject could be so interesting.

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Don Orlando

This book draws you in to what promises to be an exciting tale. The 60-year effort to produce the best dictionary the English language has ever known should have lots of wonderful stories and introduce you to some memorable characters. And it does---right up until the late 1880's. What happened to the culminating work from that time to 1928 when the first edition appears? The author offers no clue. The book ends so abruptly I found myself searching for a possible missing disk. There wasn't one. What a great disappointment!

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Andre Weinstock

One would expect that there could be nothing duller than the history of the compilation of a dictionary. However, Simon Winchester, with his impeccable command of the English language and perfect Oxfordian accent, provides an amazingly interesting and fascinating tale. I listened to each disk twice to catch all the details.

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This book was very long and some what repetitive. It gave a full accounting as far as I know.

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Linda Hart (a Uni-trained Historian)

Wonderful! Scores of anecdotes as well as the ins-and-outs of how the greatest dictionary - the OED - came to be . . . delightfully erudite (many great, seldom-used English words . . 'twould be easily understood by the less educated via rich contextual clues) . . . and fun, too! Simon Winchester's smooth-as-satin baritone English accent is sublime, too (shivers me timbers ;) In short, this unabridged gem kept me vastly entertained while commuting. 5 of 5 stars.

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Brad Grissom

This book is just dying to be abridged. But as with most books, if you stick with it, you do end up learning some interesting info.

The Meaning of Everything
This title is due for release on January 13, 2004.

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This title is due for release on January 13, 2004
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