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My Kind of Deadline

The most recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary—the 600,000-word “Victorian phenomenon” that is, in fact, my favorite lexical record—was published in 1989. The plan was to complete the third edition by 2005, reports Pippa Bailey, but “17 years later its editors are just halfway through.” In fact, Bailey adds, “it is unlikely that the third edition will be in some way complete within many of the lexicographers’ working lives.”

Nevertheless, if you’re a writer or aspire to be one, you’ll need some form of the OED. The 20-volume second-edition can be purchased for $1,215; a more practical two-volume “shorter” version (the one I use) is practically a steal at $170—though I found mine for only twenty bucks at a thrift shop. If you’re one of those weirdos who streams music and listens to audiobooks, there’s an online option as well.

But trust me: A good dictionary—even (or especially) one that takes decades to put together—is an indispensable tool for even the most casual of writers.



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