The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

Simon Winchester
This set of Lesson Plans consists of approximately 137 pages of tests, essay questions, lessons, and other teaching materials.
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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. Where were George Merrett and his wife originally from?

2. What climate is the island of Ceylon?

3. In what year did Dr. Minor arrive in London?

4. Who arrested Merrett's killer?

5. How many years did it take to complete the Oxford English Dictionary?

Short Essay Questions

1. Many critics found the Oxford English Dictionary to be racist and sexist. Explain how the author suggests this may have happened.

2. For what reasons did Minor become the most famous contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary?

3. In what way was Trench's appeal to the masses who would be needed to help compile the Oxford English Dictionary democratic?

4. Why might the author have defined the word "protagonist" in such depth?

5. How might the fact that the killer was of a learned professional background NOT have been surprising to readers?

6. What seemed uncanny about the killer's cool, calm demeanor?

7. According to the author, "The quotes would show how words had been used over centuries and explained when they had changed. The project was commissioned in the 1850s but was not profitable, yet many believe the OED is valuable far beyond its price." Why might people believe it is valuable far beyond its price?

8. Some critics say that Samuel Johnson put too much of his personality into his work on his dictionary. How would it be possible to avoid this type of criticism?

9. In what way was Furnivall's call to ask participants to choose a time period for the book a very intelligent idea to spur the makings of the Oxford English Dictionary onward?

10. Given the information that the reader gleans from the nature of the Philological Society, as well as people speaking in the London Library, what characteristics of the London Library in Minor's day show it to be different from a public library of this day and age?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Explore the ways in which self-delusion is important to the events in the text. Make reference to Minor as well as at least one other figure.

Essay Topic 2

The author opens the book with the dictionary entry for the word "murder." Discuss the reasons why he might have done this with reference to the people mentioned in the book, the book's central subject of The Oxford English Dictionary, and the author's own interests.

Essay Topic 3

What is significant about the fact that the text has two protagonists, Minor and Murray, and that the author himself points out that this goes against the definition of the word in "Modern English Usage," which states that protagonist can only be used in the singular?

(see the answer keys)

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