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March 17, 2003

Singed by the Midnight Oil
Here I am in the office at 10:15 on a Sunday night. Fortunately, all is well. I’ve just stopped by this evening to share this interesting little bit from Bill Bryson’s entertaining and often surprising The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way:

… Dr. W.C. Minor, [was] a man of immense erudition who provided from his private library the etymologies of tens of thousands of words. When Murray invited him to a gathering of the dictionary’s contributors, he learned, to his considerable surprise, that Dr. Minor could not attend for the unfortunate reason that he was an inmate at Broadmoor, a hospital for the criminally insane, and not sufficiently in possession of his faculties to be allowed out. It appears that during the U.S. Civil War, having suffered an attack of sunstroke, Dr. Minor developed a persecution mania, believing he was being pursued by Irishmen. […] Clearly, Dr. Minor’s madness was not incompatible with scholarship. In one year alone, he made 12,000 contributions to the [Oxford English Dictionary] from the private library he built up at Broadmoor.

That’s simply wonderful.

Music: Danny Elfman’s Sleepy Hollow

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