Words, Words, Words


Mike Procter and Ruby Jones share the story of Ammon Shea, and his experience reading one of the longest books in the world - the Oxford English Dictionary.

Transcript


Voice 1

Hello and welcome to Spotlight. I'm Mike Procter.

Voice 2

And I'm Ruby Jones. This programme uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Mr Ammon Shea is 37 years old. He lives in New York. And, he has just finished reading a book. "What is so special about that?", you may ask, "I have read many books". But imagine reading a book that that weighs 62 kilograms - a book that is so big that it is divided into 20 separate books. And imagine reading all of it! This is what Ammon Shea did.

Voice 2

Ammon Shea loves words! When he was 10 years old, he started reading word books - dictionaries. He wanted to discover English words that he did not know. The dictionaries explained the meaning of the words - so he would know when and how to use them. Now, Ammon owns a thousand dictionaries. And, he made a promise to himself. At some time in his life he would read the entire Oxford English Dictionary, or OED. Experts consider the OED to be the best English dictionary in the world.  So, in 2006, Ammon finally started to read the OED - all 20 thousand pages of it!

Voice 1

Ammon Shea started to read the Oxford English Dictionary at home. However, there were too many things there that prevented him from concentrating well. He needed to go somewhere quiet. Where could he go? He chose his local university library. This was the perfect place. A library is purely for books and studying. And there, Ammon found a quiet place to read in peace.

Voice 2

Some days, Ammon spent up to ten hours in the library. He read page after page of words - starting at the letter ‘a'. Often, it was hard for him to keep awake. He drank a huge amount of coffee. And over time, his health got worse. He developed terrible pains in his head. It became more difficult for him to see. He injured his neck and back. And he started to forget how to use normal vocabulary - the common words that people use! Ammon explains:

Voice 3

"Reading the OED gave me a useless large vocabulary. I began to lose my normal vocabulary. For example, I would go to the store and forget the word for milk. I was looking for the cold, white liquid."

Voice 2

And it became increasingly difficult for Ammon Shea to relate to the world around him:

Voice 3

"It had a horrible effect on how I behaved with people... There were so many words in my head. I almost became unable to speak. I ended up not being able to get words out of my mouth. Or I would search for words to say - like somebody who had speech problems."

Voice 1

There were some days when Ammon did not think that he would ever be able to finish reading the book. This was especially true when he reached the words beginning with ‘un' - all 400 pages of them! Ammon remembers:

Voice 3

"My body felt like it could not move. My mind was closing down. I had no energy. And I could not remember why I ever wanted to read any of this."

Voice 1

However, Ammon managed to keep reading - and reading! And during the whole process, he wrote down the words he found most interesting. Here are some of his favourite ones:

Voice 4

Happify - to make someone happy.

Voice 5

Cachinnator - someone who laughs too much or too loudly.

Voice 4

Pejorist - someone who thinks that the world is getting worse.

Voice 5

Somnificator - a person who makes other people feel sleepy.

Voice 2

After one year of reading, Ammon finally finished the OED. And now, he has published a book about his experiences. He wanted to explain why it had been necessary for him to read the OED. And, he wanted to share his love of words with other people. He says:

Voice 3

"The OED is so much more than any other dictionary. It includes the whole history of the strong points and weaknesses of English! It includes the big ideas and the strange ideas that make our language what it is today."

Voice 1

People consider the Oxford English Dictionary to be extremely important. They consider it the highest authority on the meaning and pronunciation of the English language. The idea for the dictionary started about a 150 years ago. The Philological Society of London was a group of people interested in the scientific study of language. They considered the dictionaries of the time to be incomplete and lacking in enough detail. So, they started a huge project - a dictionary that would include all the words in the English language from the 12th century to the modern day.

Voice 2

The project started in 1879. And the man responsible for gathering all the necessary information for it was James Murray. He was a school teacher from Scotland - a very intelligent man, and a hard worker. He needed to be! Because soon, the project workers understood just how big their job was. They had planned to spend ten years on it, but it would take much longer than that. One of the reasons for this was the changing nature of language. Murray and the other workers had to watch for new English words that kept appearing. This was as well as noting all the developments during the past 700 years!

Voice 1

In 1884, Murray and his team published the first part of the dictionary in Oxford, England. And over the next 40 years, work on the dictionary continued. Murray's team of workers increased. And, thanks to their intense and careful efforts, they managed to publish more and more parts. Finally, in April nineteen twenty eight, the last part of the dictionary was published! The whole ten parts contained over 400,000 words and expressions. Sadly, James Murray died before his life's work was completed. However, his hard labour left behind a great tool for speakers and learners of English. Today, the OED is constantly updated and you can find it on the internet. We will tell more about the OED today in another Spotlight programme.

Voice 2

So, next time you use a dictionary, just think about all the work that was involved in writing it! But please do not feel that you have to follow Ammon Shea's example - and read it from cover to cover!

Voice 1

The writer and producer of today's programme was Ruby Jones. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can contact Spotlight at radio at english dot net. And you can hear this programme again on our website. Our address is http://www.radio.english.net. This programme is called "Words, Words, Words".

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
witchdalat
said on April 14, 2011

i think that, dictionary is the very useful book for all people. However, i recognize that, some words in dictionary are rarely searched, maybe it is so old or is used by a little people. So, how we statistic words that are used or seached more and give them in the book of the most popular used words.