The story of words, cultures, the OED and John Simpson, a word detective with thirty-seven years of dictionary experience and twenty years as Chief Editor of the world's most important dictionary
Language is always changing. No one knows where it is going but the best way to future-cast is to look at the past. John Simpson animates for us a tradition of researching and editing, showing us both the technical lexicography needed to understand a word, and the careful poetry needed to construct its definition. He challenges both the idea that dictionaries are definitive, and the notion that language is falling apart. With a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at bureaucracy and an inclination to question the status quo, John Simpson gives life to the colourful characters at the OED and to the English language itself. He splices his stories with entertaining and erudite diversions into the history and origin of words such as 'kangaroo', 'hot-dog' , 'pommie', 'bicycle' , not ignoring those swearwords often classed as 'Anglo-Saxon' ! The book will speak to anyone who uses a dictionary, 'word people' , history lovers, students and parents.
A perfect title. According to the OED, a Sherlock is someone "who investigates mysteries or shows great perceptiveness". This aptly summarizes Sherlock Simpson, who tells the inside story of how that great dictionary has come to be written, illustrated by illuminating and sometimes daring word histories, and grounded in an engaging and moving autobiography. Anyone fascinated by words and their history will love it
A charmingly full, frank and humorous account of a career dedicated to rigorous lexicographic rectitude . . . [Simpson] is an absolute hero - International New York Times
A compelling tribute to the wonder of language - Guardian
Poignant . . . a sustained and sincere reflection on what it means to make a dictionary - the toil, the puzzles, the costs and the profits - Guardian