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The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:14 pm
by Wizard of Oz
The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Simon Winchester. Penguin Books, 1999.

.. a tale of murder, madness and the Oxford English Dictionary .. when a mysterious surgeon wrote to brilliant lexicographer, James Murray, offerring to help in compiling the first OED, there began one of the most bizarre and intriguing literary friendships in history .. what IS the connection between OED lexicographers, Oxford University, an American homicidal lunatic and the American Civil War ?? .. read on and find out .. a great read if for no other reason it gives a lively insight into how the OED came to life and the agonies of birthing such a mammoth child .. but beware Dr Minor of Crowthorne .. a very unusual surgeon ..

WoZ of Aus 24/02/08

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:41 pm
by p. g. cox
Wiz, I was intrigued by this one so I ordered it from Alibris.

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:52 pm
by Shelley
Does this have any relationship to The Professor and the Madman, also by Winchester and also about the compiling of the OED? Is it a sequel? A spin-off, perhaps?

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:44 am
by Wizard of Oz
.. Shelley a quick check revealed that it is as my first hunch told me .. this is another curious example of where .. for reasons known only to some little publicist .. the name of a book, when it is released in America, is changed .. they are in fact one and the same book .. except of course that in your version all the words will be spelled incorrectly .. *grin* ..

WoZ in Aus 25/02/08

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:48 am
by Wizard of Oz
.. coxie I am sure you will find it an intriguing read .. why I even learned a small snippit about the American Civil War .. although it doesn't sound as though it was a very civil war at all ..

WoZ in Aus 25/02/08

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:48 pm
by Shelley
Thanks, WoZ -- that clears it up! Why do they do that, I wonder? The first Harry Potter book was something different in the UK (HP and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US); "Arach Attack" (the movie) was re-named "Eight-Legged Freaks" in the US, but I think for obvious reasons.

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:00 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Michael Quinion’s latest word and phrase origins book also has two titles. Port Out, Starboard Home was chosen for release in Britain, and the more down-home-sounding Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds for release in the U.S. I think that Quinion once commented on this in his weekly newsletter. It was something to the effect that he had little control over the titles of his books and that they were chosen by the publisher (those geniuses in the marketing department).

I read the The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary when it came out in the U.S. in 1998 and really enjoyed it. There are those books that I can hardly remember that I read and there are those books, such as this one, that I remember in detail. Interestingly enough, though, I have no recollection of the name ‘Crowthorne’ as in The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words. I do, however, recall that Dr. Minor spent his days of confinement at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. But that is only because of my years in Colorado Springs, home of the famed 5-star hotel, ‘The Braodmoor.’

Market research and focus groups had likely revealed that in the U. K. and Commonwealth nations Professor and the Madman just wouldn’t cut it – it sounded a bit crude for more refined sensibilities, and, besides, this title was getting old after 10 years of use. So, something had to be done. When I checked, I found that the said asylum was located near the village of Crowthorne in Berkshire, England. And what a tough choice this must have presented. Broadmoor, Crowthorne. Broadmoor, Crowthorne. . . . Hmm. Broad, gal, moor, mooring, moron, . . . Ho hum. Thorns, crows, suspicion, mystery, foreboding, blackness, death, . . . By Jove, we’ve got ourselves a new title! (<;)

Also see The Professor and the Madman.
_______________________

Ken G – February 25, 2008

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:14 am
by russcable
Shelley wrote:The first Harry Potter book was something different in the UK (HP and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US);
It was HP and the Philosopher's Stone.
US children are evidentally falling behind the world in alchemy as well as science. (0.o)

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:19 am
by zmjezhd
I first read about Dr Minor in K. M. Elisabeth Murray (1977) Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. It is an interesting story, and Winchester goes into considerably more detail.

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:39 pm
by p. g. cox
Wiz,
Thanks for the tip. I got the book and enjoyed it immensely. It sent me to the dictionary a few times for some unfamiliar words such as scutcher and bugger grips.
They do say that truth is stranger than fiction; you just couldn't make-up stuff like that.

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 8:43 am
by Ken Greenwald
Peter, It's been quite some time since I read the book, but as I recall the incident that led to Dr. Minor's imprisonment was his murder of a of an innocent person walking down the street in London who he imagined was an Irishman out to get him. This paranoid fear of the Irish stemmed from his experiences during the Civil War as a surgeon in the Union Army.

Captured Irish mercenaries hired by the Confederate Army to fight the Union were routinely branded on the forehead. And this was one of the distasteful jobs that Dr. Minor was forced to do. The reasoning behind the branding was that these Irish fighters, all of whom were also members of the resistance in Ireland and who would return to Ireland after the war to continue their efforts, would forever have their cover blown by the scar that they carried. When Minor descended into madness after the war he was obsessed with the idea that the Irish were after him to gain revenge.

And as you said, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
_________________

Ken - March 2, 2008

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 1:22 am
by p. g. cox
You recall it correctly, Ken.
He also imagined nightly visitations, variously from men, women, boys and girls who forced him to commit unspeakable acts of sexual depravity (we should be so lucky). Whereupon, in the end, he cut off his penis and threw it in the fire.

Re: The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:53 am
by Wizard of Oz
.. ahh no thanks .. hold the BBQ .. I'll just have the salad ..

WoZ the vegetarian