"What do you call the part of a dog's back it can't scratch? Can you drink a glass of balderdash? And if, serendipitously, you find yourself in Serendip, then where exactly are you? The answers to all of these questions can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary, the definitive record of the English language. And there is no better guide to the dictionary's many wonderments, its quirks, and its quiddities than the former chief editor of the OED, John Simpson. John spent almost four decades of his life immersed in the intricacies of our language, and guides us through its history with charmingly laconic wit. In The Word Detective, an intensely personal memoir and a joyful celebration of English, he weaves a story of how words come into being (and sometimes disappear), how cultures shape the language we use, and how we cope when words fail us. Throughout, he enlivens his narrative with lively excavations and investigations of individual words-from deadline to online and back to 101 (yes, it's a word)-all the while reminding us that the seemingly mundane words (can you name the four different meanings of ma?) are often the most interesting ones. A brilliant expedition through the world of words, The Word Detective will delight, inspire, and educate any lover of language"-- Provided by publisher. "The Word Detective is John Simpson's memoir as the former Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Simpson takes us from his first encounter with the dictionary in the old-fashioned world of Oxford in 1976 through to his retirement as Chief Editor thirty-seven years later. Simpson introduces us to the dusty basement archives and the traditional OED afternoon tea ceremony, and recounts the personal adventures of a life well lived, from marriage, to the birth of his two daughters. Simpson presents lexicography as an examination of the links between our language and our history. Simpson appreciates the depths of communication that words allow in part because his youngest daughter, Ellie, is autistic and nonverbal. Now in her twenties, Ellie still does not speak, and will most likely never use any of the words her father holds so dear"-- Provided by publisher.