London, Oct 4 (UNI) Reading the Oxford dictionary cover-to-cover would be the zaniest thing for most of us but one.
37-year-old Ammon Shea has just completed the mammoth, if not bizarre, task of reading the 22,000 pages of Oxford Dictionary.
Mr Shea has been dissecting dictionaries since the age of 10, spent a year absorbing 59 million words, from A to Zyxt - the equivalent of reading a John Grisham novel every day.
Cooped up in the basement of his local library, the man from New York would devote up to 10 hours a day painstakingly making his way through all 20 volumes of the OED .
Every time he came across an interesting word, he jotted it down, fearful that he would not remember its meaning.
Among his favourite discoveries were obmutescence (willfully quiet), hypergelast (a person who won't stop laughing), natiform (shaped like buttocks) and deipnosophist (a person who is learned in the art of dining.) He admitted there were times when he almost gave up, frustrated at not being familiar with any of the words on the page.
In his new book, Reading the Oxford English Dictionary: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, he recalls a low point when he started learning words beginning with the letter N.
''Some days I feel as if I do not actually speak the English language, or understand it with any degree of real comprehension,'' he said.
Why anyone would choose to put themselves through such a task is a question Mr Shea is often asked. As a self-confessed lover of words who owns a thousand dictionaries, he said that reading the entire OED was a challenge he set himself many years ago.
''The OED, more so than any other dictionary, encompasses the entire history of all English's glories and foibles, the grand concepts and whimsical conceits that make our language what it is today,'' the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
''It's a great read. It is much more engrossing, enjoyable and moving to read than you would typically think a non-narrative body of text could ever possibly be.'' UNI XC ARB KN1626