From “aa” to “zyxt” [you'll have to look up the meanings yourself, because you thankfully can], the Oxford English Dictionary is filled with … well, the meanings of everything. The story of how the über-dictionary of all time actually came to be is an entertaining, exasperating saga of clashing personalities, prodigious erudition, and plain old stubbornness.
The first edition took some 71 years to finally make it to print, thanks mostly to the efforts of James Augustus Henry Murray, a schoolteacher from humble beginnings, who inherited the unwieldy project but alas died (as did many who helped bring it to fruition) before the final pages were completed in 1928. Murray’s illustrative quote for the word ‘arrival,’ as in ‘one that arrives or has arrived,’ marked the birth in 1884 of his 9th daughter, Rosfrith Ada Nina Ruthven Murray: “the arrival was a little daughter.” That announcement remains in the OED today.
Winchester’s book is a memorable combination of history, literary efforts, and village gossip melded together to make for one of the most knowledge-filled reads ever. You’ll find yourself feeling that much smarter after turning that final page. For those wanting more, Winchester’s previous The Professor and the Madman (1998), about one of the most fascinating major contributors to the making of OED, makes for an excellent companion text.