Compendious philological volumes

Monday, July 13, 2009 - 08:17 PM

Forsooth, the next item on our reference-book most-wanted list this fall is going to be the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, due out in October. Forty-four years in the making, this puppy's got 800,000 words ('almost every word,' they claim, from Old English to the present)--that's more than double the size of Roget's International. Vasty. And, like Roget, it's organized by concept, so if you're looking for the perfect synonym for 'honey pie,' just flip right to the section on 'Terms of Endearment.'

On second thought, maybe we'll wait for the electronic version.

The most impressive thing about HTOTOED is that it even exists. When they started in the project, everything was on slips of paper, and a fire nearly destroyed a decade's worth of work in 1975. Eventually the HTOTOED team switched from paper to computers, which are harder to burn. Once in print, however, the thesaurus will fill two volumes and 3,984 pages, and will be pretty good for pressing flowers, we're guessing. (via Times of London)

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