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This astonishing linguistic achievement, first appearing in full in 1928, was a bookshelf-breaking set of volumes containing almost half a million words and two million quotations illustrating word usage over the centuries-and a decent chunk of those quotations came from a former US Civil War veteran who eventually savaged his own genitals with a pen (performing an "autopeotomy") while residing in a UK hospital for the criminally insane.
With his cheeky way with a tale ( 'It is a brave and foolhardy and desperate man who will perform an autopeotomy' he writes of Minor's self-mutilation), Winchester celebrates a gloomy life brightened by devotion to a quietly noble, nearly anonymous task.
And so I did, and it duly was and I duly am, and there autopeotomy lies for ever, part of the glittering marvels that make up the English language and which, on Wednesday, is set to celebrate the creation of its one millionth word, according to the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based association of academics that tracks the use of new words.