Monday, June 2, 2008


17 Gough Square.

After studying a bit of his work and especially this, we took a short Tube ride and a walk to one of his 17 homes which sits very appropriately at 17 Gough Square. It was fascinating to sit in the rooms where "the Grumbler" once tapped his pen and drummed his temple while agonizing over the creation of the most comprehensive dictionary of his time. It took 9 years to complete.

What impressed me most was that he approached the whole process somewhat backwardly, finding examples of the words he was defining in literature and using that to steer the definitions. The dictionary has hundreds of quotes from reputable literature contained in its pages in an attempt to give modern and historical context to the words. But I think that language is too fluid to pin down. It is always moving, undulating, changing. In a way, dictionaries are more like a snapshot of language, a relic of what language used to be. Language could never be stagnant. Sterility doesn't resonate with it.

Looking out the window of the library.

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