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Dictionary of Ologies and Isms

Quinion, Michael
Publisher:  Oxford University Press
Year Published:  2005  
Pages:  280pp   Price:  $21.95   ISBN:  0-19-280640-8

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Quinion has been a word researcher for the OED since 1992, and he has a WorldWideWords Web site. This book was "first published 2002, reissued with new covers 2005", and the author asserts both a 2002 and a 2005 copyright date. Not having the 2002 edition on hand, I cannot make a page by page comparison. And most of the entries have no dates anyway, dates when a prefix or suffix came into being. Here are endings and beginnings for 1250 words, with a total of 10,000 examples. Quinion thus identifies the major affixes, excluding place name and personal name affixes. He also tries to show the links between words, both grammatically and thematically. The most common prefix seems to be ante- or anti-, while the most common suffix is -ant or -ent. The book is arranged in dictionary format, with a description of the term followed by a definition, a root source, and a description. There are plenty of internal cross-references. His major sources have been the OED database and the Web. As he says, "the aim throughout has been to provide many examples, on the principle that it is easier to absorb the subtleties of the way such forms are used when they are seen in action".

* Audience or interest level: crossword and word game lovers, libraries, word scholars.

* Some interesting facts: "uber. Superior [German uber=over] From 1980s on, a few short lived words began to be created, suggesting a superior version of a given personal type, but usually in a mildly derogatory way#The umlaut is often left off."

* What I don't like about this resource (its shortcomings): scattered tables are not indexed, such as the words for multiples on p.127, -algia for pain on p.11, -pathy for disease on p.184, and others. Some, under different headings, are in the thematic index, but this is not enough.

* What I do like about this resource (its positives): there is a Selective Thematic Index, in alphabetical order, dealing with biological classifications, the body, the elements, food and drink, culture and society, medicine, numbers, etc.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 94

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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