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Empire of Words:
The Reign of the OED
John Willinsky

Book Description | Table of Contents


"The heart of the [OED] is its citations--the examples it gives of the words it is defining; for, as in any good dictionary, it is these that ultimately determine the definitions. . . . But, says Professor John Willinsky in Empire of Words, the citations in the . . . OED . . . were far too narrowly chosen. . . . Some would say there was not much wrong with that. Yes, there is, says Willinsky. It marks the OED as elitist, masculine in its emphasis, chauvinistic, imperialist even, and in a general way insulting to minority groups."--Nicholas Bagnall, The Sunday Telegraph

"[In] Empire of Words: The Reign of the OED [John Willinsky] takes an affectionate but candid look at the great book's shortcomings. . . . He approaches his study of the OED through a close examination of its principal sources of authority for its definitions. . . . It's time, he believes, to make room in the OED for the English of wider global use."--Max Wyman, Vancouver Sun

"John Willinsky . . . shows [that] The Dictionary is deeply and unavoidably flawed. Its architecture remains distinctly Victorian, and anyone using The Dictionary as a tool, or even a temple, needs to know the colour and slant of the windows they're looking through. . . . The OED is a brilliant, majestic, endlessly fascinating homage to a seriously wordy language. Empire of Words regularly applauds that achievement, while carefully posting much-needed warning signs all over it. . . . Willinsky is scholarly without ever being dry, writing with wit, elegance and unfailing insight. You couldn't ask for a better, more genial guide."--Randy Harris, Globe and Mail

"What [John Willinsky] found--after years of old-fashioned study bolstered by a sophisticated computer analysis of the entire OED text--is fascinating and disconcerting. . . . [While he] never undermines or obscures the amazing enterprise that is the OED . . . [he] documents the human foibles undergirding the selection of [its] famous illustrative quotations."--Steve Weinberg, Star


"Willinsky has written an impressive socio-political history of the Oxford English Dictionary. . . . A careful, thorough, lively history."--Chris Kramarae, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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File created: 2/4/2015

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