New Penguin English Dictionary

9780140299786: New Penguin English Dictionary

This volume explores and explains every angle of the word's most widely spoken language. It defines the latest scientific and technical terms, as well as surveying more unusual, literary or archaic vocabulary. It gives detailed information about correct usage ("different from?", "different than?" "different to?") and words that are commonly confused with one another ("imply" and "infer", uninterested" and "disinterested"). It contains thousands of illustrative examples, many of them drawn from the works of major literary figures, that serve not only to show how individual words work in context, but also to give a sense of the richness and variety of English. It includes word histories that explain the often tortuous routes by which individual words have developed their meaning over the centuries. And it supplements definitions of key concepts in subject areas as diverse as physics, philosophy, politics, and music with contributions from leading experts in the filed -Anthony Grayling on "reason", Rudy Rucker on "infinity", Donald Lopez on "reincarnation", Catherine Belsey on "deconstruction", and David Thomson on "film noir". The result is a meticulously researched, versatile dictionary that encompasses the huge range of the language, and offers clear guidance to its many complexities.

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Lexicographers have been arguing for centuries--since Dr Johnson produced his authoritative Dictionary of the English Language in 1755--about whether dictionaries should be arbiters of correctness or describers of living language. Refreshingly forward-looking and impressively comprehensive, The Penguin English Dictionary inclines to the latter.

In it you'll find definitions of "dot com company" as well as "dot com fever". Also there amongst the burgeoning computer and Internet vocabulary and its spin-off metaphors are "people carrier," "ring-fence" and "zero tolerance". But that is not to say this large, single-volume dictionary is not also strong and clear on standard English and English of earlier periods as well as on scientific and specialist terms--all with scholarly derivations. "Fugacious" ("lasting a short time, fleeting"--from Latin fugac--fugac from fuger to flee) is there along with "ollgoclase" ("a common feldspar mineral of the plagioclase series found in many rocks eg granite"--from German Oligoklas, from Greek OLIGO + klasis breaking").

Two features distinguish this attractive dictionary. First, like larger multi-volume rivals, it quotes from writers past and present--and people in the news today--to illustrate established, changing and modern language usage. Thus Shakespeare and John Locke rub shoulders with Eric Cantona and Germaine Greer. Second, the dictionary is liberally supplied with inset usage notes, which explain the complexities of, for example, shall and will, supplement and complement, effect and affect. There are also editorial notes and occasional very entertaining word histories. It makes for engrossing browsing. The (signed) editorial notes give supplementary information and have been written by a team of experts. Thus you get a useful elucidatory extra paragraph about film noir by film writer David Thomson, a comment about equality by Helena Kennedy QC and, by BBC economics correspondent Evan Davis, a piece about monetarism.

The New Penguin English Dictionary is being marketed as a dictionary "with attitude" and it's certainly that--firmly in the Johnsonian tradition, although the range of opinions makes it a much more multi-faceted dictionary than anything we've seen before. --Susan Elkin


'In a comparison of Collins, Chambers and Penguin, the New Penguin English Dictionary comes out as the top recommendation' - TLS 'Refreshingly forward-looking and impressively comprehensive' -

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