Words in Time and Place : Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, Hardback Book

Words in Time and Place : Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary Hardback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Did you know that the English language has over 150 words for the adjective 'drunk' developed over 1,000 years?

Be prepared to learn words you have never heard before, find out fascinating facts behind everyday words, and be surprised at how lively and varied the English language can be.

Published to critical acclaim in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is the first comprehensive thesaurus in the world to arrange words by meaning in order of first recorded use.

Using its unique perspective on how the English language has developed, Words in Time and Place takes 15 themes and explores the language in these areas over time - explaining when new words appeared, where they came from, and what such changes say about times in which they emerged.

The themes chosen are varied, universal topics and show the semantic range of the thesaurus and what it can tell us about the words used in areas of everyday life.

Learn about the different words for dying and money, or types of pop music, as well as words for a privy, oaths, and words for being drunk. Written by the world's leading expert on the English language, David Crystal, the book carries his trademark style of engaging yet authoritative writing.

Each chapter features an introduction to the language of that topic, followed by a timeline of vocabulary taken from the historical thesaurus showing all the synonyms arranged in chronological order.

The timelines are annotated with additional quotations, facts, and social and historical context to give a clear sense of how words entered the English language, when, and in which context they were used.

Words in Time and Place showcases the unique and excellent resource that is the Historical Thesaurus and reveals the linguistic treasures to be found within.

This fascinating book will appeal to anyone with an interest in words and in the development of the English language.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Language: reference & general
  • ISBN: 9780199680474

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I'm surprised at other people actually reading this cover to cover in only a couple of sittings: for me it was much more the type of book that you dip in and out of. A curiosity, but not something deeply riveting. Trivia, I suppose. I did find Crystal's introduction to the whole book and to each chapter interesting, but the lists and lists of words are rather hard to just sit and read, for me -- it'd be like reading a dictionary or thesaurus for fun; it can be interesting to look up particular things, but I don't know anyone (as far as I'm aware!) who'll sit and read straight through.<br/><br/>For me, it was particularly interesting because it puts some Old/Middle English expressions in a better context than the simple translating dictionaries ever did, and makes some surprising links between the years and other languages. Though I think if he'd gone to Anglo-Saxon poetry, he'd have found some more fun ones for his section on death: I'm fond of 'sweordum answefede' (put to sleep by swords), which caused some consternation in class when we were trying to translate it.