The Professor and the Madman Lives Up to Its Subtitle

The subtitle of Simon Winchester's book The Professor and the Madman is "A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary," and it comes through brilliantly on all accounts; there is a mysterious murder in the "louche and notoriously crime-ridden" London neighborhood of Lambeth Marsh; there is a detailed account of American military surgeon Dr. Minor, who-- despite his paranoid fantasies of Irishmen and pygmies living beneath his floorboards, depraved folk waiting until dark to come out and commit lewd and indecent acts on him-- manages to be the most significant contributor to the OED; and, as any book that is about making the OED should, it has some really hard vocabulary words, here are a few that I had to look up: louche, tocsin, breveted, and (warning! spoiler!) autopeotomy.


Anonymous said...

Why is there another language on the book cover? Is that to confuse us and think they are difficult English words?

Dave said...

yikes-- there is. i must have grabbed a translated book cover!

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