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150CLARENCE MAJOR brief histories of derivative terms stemming from these primary words. Among the words explored are: "bitch," "bullshit," "cock," "cunt," "hole," and "jazz," of which he says: "It is undetermined whether the original sense was music of a peculiar rhythm, or copulation. The latter is commonly believed in the Middle West" (p. 62). Read found "jazz" used both as a verb and a noun in Island Park, Cedar Falls, Iowa. The noun use of it represented sperm. Following the brave and pioneering glossary there is an "Afterword" by Reinhold Aman who praises the work as the classic that it is and says, "the graffiti collected in these pages are among the funniest of all folk speech recorded " (p. 85). Though I personally missed the humor I agree with Aman that "snide bluenoses" are everywhere. They are likely to be shocked by Dr. Read's book. When the work first appeared in its limited edition it did surprisingly receive some serious critical consideration in several journals. Examples: Quarterly Review of Biology: "... a record, of permanent historical value, of the current American fashions in obscene inscriptions" (p. 86). Language said: "To the linguist the terms show interesting semantic changes, either the use of the inoffensive words to express taboo terms, or the remodeling of the offensive words so that they will somehow give the meaning without giving the offense" (p. 86). American Speech: "... all dictionaries ... are written to satisfy the needs of certain groups in society, not to present a complete picture of language at a given time , . . they have continued to omit the vulgar words which are colloquially the most commonly used in the language. . . . The many collectors of 'slang' and students of popular English . . . will appreciate the impulse that leads Mr. Read to put down what most people do not like to see in print" (p. 89). Allen Walker Read, born in 1906, is a distinguished scholar who has worked on many important projects, among them, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Random House Dictionary, the Funk & Wagnalls dictionaries and the Dictionary ofAmerican English on Historical Principles. This 1977 Maledicta Press edition of the original of seventy-five copies is most welcomed to our not-soliberated times. Clarence Major University of Colorado K. M. E. Murray, Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977. Pp. XU, 386. $15.00. If the Oxford English Dictionary is a monument to the English language, it is also a monument to its first editor, Sir James Murray, without whose dedication , perserverance, and indomitable spirit the OED might never have been compiled . For most of the fifty years it took to complete the OED, the history of REVIEWS151 of the work and the man whom his Oxford neighbors nicknamed the Die' were inextricably interwoven. It is the story of both the man and his work that K. M. Elisabeth Murray skillfully weaves together in her book, Caught in the Web of Words. Perhaps the greatest lexicographer of all times was a man of modest formal education. In the fields of English and philology in the 1860's and 70's, however, this did not prove a serious handicap to Murray; for in a society in which formal education was still very classical in orientation, virtually everyone was an amateur in English and philological studies. In his native Scotland, Murray developed early on a fascination for the study of words. After his move to London in 1864, he became active in a number of organizations dedicated to improving the state of English and philological studies. In 1858, one of these organizations, the Philological Society, had issued a call for a New English Dictionary on an historical basis. But it took some twenty years before the work was formally begun. In the meantime, the young Murray had established a reputation as one of the foremost lexicographers in England. In 1874, Edinburgh recognized his contributions to scholarship with the conferral of an Honorary degree of LL.D. The selection of Murray in 1879 to edit the New English Dictionary (later named the OED) was therefore widely hailed. That the Oxford English Dictionary took fifty years to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 150-152
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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