The New Collins Dictionary (‘concordance, encyclopaedia, glossary, lexicon, vocabulary, wordbook’) and Thesaurus proves beyond all measure of doubt that the simplest ideas arc always the best. Why, one wonders, has no one ever thought o f putting these two together before’ This is one of the most useful books I’ve ever possessed. My yellowing Roget’s Thesaurus is in the dustbin. So is my shockingly dilapidated Concise Oxford.
Contemporaneity is the dominant tone of this book, and the effect is neither benighted nor drab, but undeniably refreshing. For all the Fowler-based respectability of the Oxford dictionaries (and I mean the lighter ones, which do not include that absurd euphemism The Shorter Oxford, whose function on my shelf is reduced to that of dust-collecting-only), they undoubtedly pall beside Collins’s crisp, spankingly modern but not at all new-fangled approach. The technique used by Collins in this book owes a good deal to a research venture called the ‘Cobuild Project’, which has apparently been simmering away at Birmingham University for some years. This project draws its inspiration from the new science o f Modern English, which came into its own in the 1960s along with Sociology, Social Anthropology, Linguistics etc.
When I was press- ganged into learning this subject at university, I was forever flying into frenzies of resentment about what seemed, at the time, to be no more than a lot of jargonised gobbledigook with a caring, sharing bias. I now contritely acknowledge that even if this branch of