Sunday, August 05, 2007

Chance vagaries of war

Just a little curiosity.

"By the end of the Great War, the Editors of the OED were struggling somewhat. Their inspiring leader, Sir James Murray, had died in 1915, still doggedly working on the letter T. Most of the younger and abler members of staff had been sent away on active service, or to do other war work, and in June 1918 even Charles Onions, one of the remaining Chief Editors, was summoned to the Admiralty. As early as 1916, William Craigie had noted that the project was in need of someone with expertise in Old and Middle English. Fortunately, one of his former students was to return to Oxford in late 1918 in search of work. Recovering from the illness which had forced him home from the trenches, and with a wife and small child to support, he was understandably grateful for the offer of employment on the staff of the OED, and his linguistic credentials were well known to Craigie, who had tutored him in Old Norse. His name was Ronald Tolkien."

There's more here.

I find dictionary compilers fascinating and alien. Though I love words and wordplay, I just can't imagine doing that.


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