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The OED is 80: Sarah’s Dispatches
Part One

The Oxford English Dictionary is 80 and there are celebrations taking place all week in Oxford, England.  Sarah Russo, Associate Publicity Director, was lucky enough to travel to Oxford for the celebrations and below is her letter home to us, the poor colleagues still at our cubicles toiling away.  Sarah and Kirsty, my UK counterpart, will be posting about the celebrations all week so be sure to check back for more OED fun. (Don’t forget to check out Sarah’s twitter updates about her trip!)

Sigh…what a day! So many things have happened I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning. Sure you don’t want some popcorn before I start? Okay then.

I started my day off with a very peaceful and delicious breakfast in the hotel. The Old Parsonage is just that: the house where the parson lived. A big place for a parson (the head of specifically an Anglican church which for obvious reasons is right next door). When you walk in the gate there is a courtyard filled with tables where you can have tea on nice days and the walls are covered in a plant that is not ivy, but much as you would imagine buildings to be covered in England and just beginning to change color. You walk in a small wooden door and you are met with the smell of the fire burning cheerily surrounded by chairs and tables to sit and congregate. The bar is just past the fireplace and altogether it is warm and just a little dark as a very old (built in 1660) house should be. So just past the bar are a very few steps up to the room where I sat having a cup of coffee white (with warm milk that is) and toast (with marmalade that is literally the most perfect bittersweet marmalade all orange rind and jelly) and waited for my eggs and Cumberland sausage. Suffice it to say this would be the last moment of relative stillness all day.

Shortly after breakfast I met the group of journalists congregating near the fire (a very good place to congregate) and we all walked over to the Oxford University Press offices for the scheduled start of the events. We were missing one, she had just landed at Heathrow and was on her way by taxi. So after I walked the group over, with the help of Claire from the office who actually knows the way, I doubled back. Well, her taxi driver was lost and I nervously paced back and forth for nearly an hour, frequently checking the email updates from her about how the driver is saying they are “only a mile away”, before she finally arrives. The bellboy was incredibly helpful in renegotiating the fare (by the way his name is Hugh and his dad works for OUP, isn’t that a stroke of luck? So he’s my new friend). So we checked her bags and turned right around, back to the press. At this point I’ve missed most of the morning, the introductions and the tour of the OUP museum led by archivist, Martin Maw.

Lunch was at the Eagle and Child pub and I got fish and chips and a half pint of beer called “bare ass,” I kid you not. At lunch were three men, Edmund, Jeremy, and Peter, the authors of our book Ring of Words about Tolkien and the OED as well as Simon Winchester (who wrote The Professor and the Madman about the first editor of the OED, James Murray) and Ammon Shea who just wrote Reading The OED. Now the bird and baby is famous. It is where Tolkien and Lewis Carroll met with their group called The Inklings and drank and talked of literary things. It is sort of like Puck Fair but small and old and very…curious would be the right word. It really is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. Oxford is a place that has existed in my imagination from history and novels for ages now and it is so much like I imagined it (without McDonald’s and Gap) that it feels just a little disquieting.

This will have to be the first installment. It’s quarter past midnight and I’m hardly near the best part of the day…

Recent Comments

  1. [...] have returned from Oxford and the 80th anniversary celebration of the Oxford English Dictionary. My last post left off on Monday after our lunch at the Eagle and Child Pub where Simon Winchester and Ammon Shea [...]

  2. [...] Filed in A-Featured , Dictionaries , Lexicography on October 23, 2008 | SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “The OED is 80: Ammon Shea Reports on Bicycles and Bars”, url: “http://blog.oup.com/2008/10/bicycles_bars/” }); Ammon Shea recently spent a year of his life reading the OED from start to finish. Over the next few months he will be posting weekly blogs about the insights, gems, and thoughts on language that came from this experience. His book, Reading the OED, has been published by Perigee, so go check it out in your local bookstore. In the post below Ammon reflects on his trip to Oxford. [...]

  3. Jesus of Oxford : OUPblog

    [...] Filed in A-Featured , Dictionaries , Lexicography on October 30, 2008 | SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Jesus of Oxford”, url: “http://blog.oup.com/2008/10/jesus-of-oxford/” }); Ammon Shea recently spent a year of his life reading the OED from start to finish. Over the next few months he will be posting weekly blogs about the insights, gems, and thoughts on language that came from this experience. His book, Reading the OED, has been published by Perigee, so go check it out in your local bookstore. In the post below Ammon reflects on his trip to Oxford. [...]

  4. kat

    What an interesting world you are living in. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures there and what will become of them.

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