The Bizarre Origin of the Oxford English Dictionary


James Murray in the Scriptorium at Banbury Road, before 1910. Wikipedia / Public Domain

With 600,000 words and 3 million quotations, the Oxford English Dictionary is a massive tome. Work began on the dictionary in 1857, but the first edition wasn't published until 1884. Compiling the dictionary was a Herculean task, and James Murray, the editor of the dictionary, put out a call for assistance. This early crowdsourcing strategy worked surprisingly well. Murray was particularly impressed by his most prolific and consistent contributor, an enigmatic fellow named Dr. W.C. Minor. So impressed, in fact, that Murray decided he had to meet the man in person. It's safe to say the meeting didn't go as expected.