We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Call anytime(888) 283-5051
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary | [Simon Winchester]

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary

Writing with marvelous brio, Simon Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language and pays homage to the great dictionary makers from Samuel Johnson to Noah Webster before turning his unmatched talent for storytelling to the making of the most venerable of dictionaries: The Oxford English Dictionary.
Regular Price:$29.27
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Publisher's Summary

Writing with marvelous brio, Simon Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language and pays homage to the great dictionary makers from Samuel Johnson to Noah Webster before turning his unmatched talent for storytelling to the making of the most venerable of dictionaries: The Oxford English Dictionary. Here the listener is presented with lively portraits of such key figures as the brilliant but sickly first editor Herbert Coleridge, the colorful, wildly eccentric Frederick Furnivall, and the incomparable James Augustus Henry Murray, who spent half a century as editor bringing the project to fruition. Winchester lovingly describes the minutiae of dictionary making, brings us to visit the unseemly corrugated iron shed that Murray grandly dubbed The Scriptorium, and introduces some of the legion of volunteers, from Fitzedward Hall, a bitter hermit obsessively devoted to the OED, to the murderous 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 erected to a living language.

©2003 Simon Winchester; (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"With his usual winning blend of scholarship and accessible, skillfully paced narrative...[Simon] Winchester successfully brings readers inside the day-to-day operations of the massive project and shows us the unrelenting passion of people...who, in the end, succeeded magnificently. Winchester's book will be required reading for word mavens and anyone interested in the history of our marvelous, ever-changing language." (Publishers Weekly)
"Teeming with knowledge and alive with insights. Winchester handles humor and awe with modesty and cunning." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Entrancing." (Chicago Tribune)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (182 )
5 star
 (79)
4 star
 (65)
3 star
 (28)
2 star
 (7)
1 star
 (3)
Overall
4.3 (55 )
5 star
 (31)
4 star
 (14)
3 star
 (7)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (1)
Story
4.4 (56 )
5 star
 (35)
4 star
 (13)
3 star
 (6)
2 star
 (1)
1 star
 (1)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Donald Lincoln, NE, USA 11-01-04
    Donald Lincoln, NE, USA 11-01-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "A New Appreciation"

    When you finish listening to this book, you will have a new found respect and admiration for dictionaries and the enduring characters who are responsible for creating them. Some complained that the book was nothing but a thesaurus of word origins. True, it starts out that way, but it definitely does not end that way. You are taken through decades of struggle, defeat and ultimate success. How the OED was ever completed was a miracle, but also a testament to the strength and endurance of the men who created it.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Edmonton, AB, Canada 04-03-06
    Christine Edmonton, AB, Canada 04-03-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Fascinating and touching"

    This book is exactly as advertised, only much more so. You expect the brief outline of the English language, the history of early lexicography, but perhaps not the enthralling detail about the individual contributors to what would become the OED, not only the major editors, but the staff, and the immense number of reader volunteers who made the dictionary possible. At some point the author says something to the effect that the editors didn't care what the personal circumstances or characters of the volunteer contributors were, so long as they were competent, and for me the most moving aspect of this book was in the later chapters when some of these readers and contributors are described. At times, I was brought to tears by their stories. As presented here, the OED was a labour of love--paid sometimes, more often not--of many people, for some of whom their work on it seems to have acted as a kind of redemption in lives otherwise lost in frustration, obscurity, or madness.

    Well, I loved it. The author's humanistic outlook shines through every line, and furthermore he is a very pleasant reader!

    For everyone who has ever pondered entries in the OED and wondered (among other things) how they could ever have located and organized all those quotations before the age of the computer...this is the book for you.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 01-19-11
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 01-19-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    59
    16
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Engaging-Try It!"

    I bought this audio book because I love words but it was so much more than just a story of words. It was the story of a massive undertaking by fascinating people transcending 80 years which resulted in the English language having order for the first time. The plot contained protagonists and foils all with quirks and peccadilloes. The words were rich and joyous, but l enjoyed the people and the story more. It was clear that the author loved his material and by reading it himself did more justice to it than someone else reading it. I hope that this book might find a wide audience because it is a most deserving narrative.

    I have listened to nearly three dozen audiobooks and i would definitely rate this in the top 5.

    This is the type of book that outside the normal course for many listeners that I would encourage them to try. You will be pleasantly surprised.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Gainesville, FL, United States 10-27-09
    Thomas Gainesville, FL, United States 10-27-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    58
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Not a bad history of the OED"

    A very interesting listen with lots of information about the people involved in making the dictionary and a fair amount about the words that comprise it as well as some insights into the lexicographer's art.

    Aptly, Simon Winchester manages to wield a delightfully rich vocabulary in telling his history.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CrazyBird United States 08-18-13
    CrazyBird United States 08-18-13 Member Since 2009

    I am a retired Histology Technician. My time is spent caring for my grandchildren, my dog, cat, and blue & gold macaw.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    141
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful listening"

    A bit shorter than Winchester's other books this one is none the less as informative and interesting as all of his other works. Mr. Winchester brings to life the personalities of the dedicated men that labored for an astounding number of years to produce what is, I believe, the greatest contribution to the recognition and importance of both the spoken and written word of the English speaking world, The Oxford English Dictionary.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah SAN MARCOS, TX, United States 11-04-12
    Deborah SAN MARCOS, TX, United States 11-04-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    83
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Boring!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Meaning of Everything the most enjoyable?

    Subject matter. I liked how they made the slips and accumulated them to create the dictionary.


    What other book might you compare The Meaning of Everything to and why?

    The Professor and the Madman because it is the same author, narrator and story but focuses on only one particular contributor to the OED.


    Which character – as performed by Simon Winchester – was your favorite?

    I liked the different editors and their approaches to creating the OED.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved the subject matter but compared to his other book on the same subject this is a bit boring. I am going to listen to it again to get more of the information. I think if I pay better attention to it and try to focus.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Pacific Palisades, CA USA 01-10-12
    Richard Pacific Palisades, CA USA 01-10-12 Member Since 2004

    Biomedical entrepreneur. Lifelong Libertarian. Yoga enthusiast.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    84
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    268
    49
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not very interesting"

    Lacks engagement. More or less a drone narration of facts with some interesting anecdotes and stories here and there.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela Sonoma, CA, United States 03-16-04
    Pamela Sonoma, CA, United States 03-16-04 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    188
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    126
    45
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    "The Meaning of Everything"

    What a disappointment. After seeing this in the bookstore, I was excited to start listening to it on my iPod. I was expecting an enticing story that told of the challenges faced by the creators of the OED; what I got was a virtual thesaurus of word origins and histories of the cultures they came from. Yawn.

    8 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia West Palm Beach, FL, USA 07-22-06
    Cynthia West Palm Beach, FL, USA 07-22-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Not a gripping tale"

    Of all the books by Simon Winchester that I've "read", this was sooooo boring that I didn't even finsh it. The historical books on natural disasters - "Krakatoa", "A Crack in the Edge of the World" (1906 San Francisco Earthquake) - and the history of geology - "The Map that Changed the World" were very interesting. Even the "Professor and the Mad Man" was an OK listen. So I thought this book was a natural progression... but it lost my attention and I couldn't finish.

    1 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.