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AUCKLAND, Today: Based on the best-selling novel by Simon Winchester about the birth of the Oxford English Dictionary, the movie The Professor and the Madman comes to NZ next month.

The moviemakers have, as is their wont, turned a remarkable 1857 history into an OK movie, starring Sean Penn & Mel Gibson. But at its core, this is still a true tale of madness, genius, and obsession about two men who created English language history with the writing of Oxford.

Oxford today contains 171,000 words and 47,000 obsolete words. 

“Oxford today contains 171,000 words and 47,000 obsolete words.”

Its compilation began in 1857 and was one of the most ambitious and revolutionary language projects ever undertaken. Professor James Murray (Mel Gibson) took on the challenge of creating the most comprehensive dictionary ever compiled, but knew that it would take him and his team over a century to compile all known definitions.

However, by enlisting contributions from all over the world, the dictionary was completed in just 20 years.

As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor Murray, discovered that one man, Dr W C Minor (Sean Penn), had submitted more than ten thousand words.

According to the movie, when the committee insisted on honouring him, they also discovered that Dr Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was a convicted murderer.

  • Watch the trailer below

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