Emily Arsenault's first novel has gotten mixed reviews but how can I ignore a mystery story based on lexicography? Here's Marilyn Stasio's (generally positive) review from the 15 October 2009 New York Times: THE BROKEN TEAGLASS (Delacorte, $25) is wordy. But what would you expect from a mystery set in the offices of a dictionary publisher? In her author bio, we learn that Emily Arsenault wrote this first novel to pass the long, quiet nights in the South African village where she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. The comfort she took from words — funny words, strange words, words that should have been strangled at birth — is palpable in her oddly endearing coming-of-age story about a recent college graduate who lands a job as an apprentice lexicographer and discovers clues to an unsolved murder embedded in the citation files. Billy Webb and a young colleague, Mona Minot, become chummy when comparing multiple “cits” from a bogus book. As their relationship develops, so does the story of the killing, which they suspect was committed by someone in their office. “All those silent types,” Mona observes. “There’s gotta be a sociopath or two among us.” Or at least a very clever wordsmith.
I've an assortment of lexicography news to share this morning: Henry Hitchings, author of The Secret Life of Words and Defining the World has written an enthusiastic review of Oxford's new Historical Thesaurus of the English Language, which he calls "a monumental feat of scholarship [and] in a world infatuated with speed, ... a testament to the value of patiently accumulated learning." To read the rest of the article, visit the Telegraph at http://tinyurl.com/yz8ds2z.
Here's a wonderful photograph from the Boston Globe, illustrating an article on the Boston Book Festival. The photo, "Dictionary," is part of a series by photographer and MassArt teacher Abelardo Morell. The photos are collected in A Book of Books, Bulfinch Press, 2002.
And then there's this happy tale from aptly named El Dorado, Kansas: On Sunday, Michael Myers scratched off one or two Bonus Crossword instant tickets and found he'd won a top prize of $20,000. “I wanted to hide the ticket until I could claim it, so I put it in my dictionary under ‘M’ for ‘money,’” Myers revealed. “And then I put the dictionary up high. Doxies like to chew and I wasn’t going to take any chances.” (See the full story The El Dorado Times at http://tinyurl.com/yh2eeog).
Today marks the official launch of the largest thesaurus resource in the world, covering more than 920,000 words and meanings, based on the Oxford English Dictionary. Editors Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, Michael Samuels and Irene Wotherspoon have compiled the first historical thesaurus for any of the world's languages. It lists synonyms with the dates of first recorded use in English, in chronological order, with earliest synonyms first.
The new Oxford University Press edition of Jesse Sheidlower's The F Word is getting a fair amount of play in the media. Here's a link Inside Higher Ed's interview: http://tinyurl.com/yc3m8s6. At the same time, Jesse Sheidlower's 1 October 2009 article on "Why its so hard to put sex in the dictionary" has the blogs buzzing. The (very graphic!) article is on Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2227971/.