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Brewer's is famously, fabulously useless. There is not the remotest possibility that it contains anything you might actually be looking up at the time. In this, it closely resembles that great modern intellectual irritant, the World Wide Web. Where it bests the upstart Web is in its wit, its erudition and in its disposability. Mind you, frustrated users should wield the new edition with caution. Adrian Room has introduced French jargon, inkhorn literary terms and many more historical and fictional characters to the familiar "alms-basket of words".
But it is through the number of extra phrases and quotations that Room truly distinguishes this edition--and who can resist passages of verse like the one which accompanies a new entry for Technogamia, a 1618 play of such mind-crushing tediousness that James I "made several efforts to leave after sitting out the first two acts"? By complete contrast, there's never a dull moment to be had with this great, daft, pointless, wonderful brick of a book. --Simon Ings