Trinity Tomes 11 - Writing a War of Words

Old Member
22 November 2021 17:30-18:30

Join us to hear from Lynda Mugglestone, Lecturer in English Language about her very recently published book Writing a War of Words.

Writing a War of Words is the first exploration of the war-time quest by Andrew Clark—a writer, historian, and volunteer on the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary—to document changes in the English language from the start of World War One up to 1919. Clark’s unique series of lexical scrapbooks, replete with clippings, annotations, and real-time definitions, reveals a desire to put living language history to the fore, and to create a record of often fleeting popular usage.

The rise of trench warfare, the Zeppelinophobia of total war, and descriptions of shell-shock (and raidshock on the Home Front) all drew his attentive gaze. The archive includes examples from a range of sources, such as advertising, newspapers, and letters from the Front, as well as documenting social issues such as the shifting forms of representation as women ‘did their bit’ on the Home Front.

Lynda Mugglestone’s fascinating investigation of this valuable archive reassesses the conventional accounts of language history during this period, recuperates Clark himself as another ‘forgotten lexicographer’, challenges the received wisdom on the inexpressibilities of war, and examines the role of language as an interdisciplinary lens on history.

A recording of the session is available on the college YouTube channel - please click here


Lynda Mugglestone

Lynda is Professor of the History of English at Oxford University and Lecturer in English Language at Trinity. She has published widely on the social and cultural history of English, with particular reference to lexicography, lexical history, and the history of spoken English, as well as on language attitudes, anxieties, and patterns of change.  

Publications include Lost for Words: The Hidden History of the Oxford English Dictionary (2005), Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction (2011), The Oxford History of English (2012), and Samuel Johnson and the Journey into Words (2015, 2018).