C. K. Ogden

C. K. Ogden books and biography

Charles Kay Ogden

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Charles Kay Ogden (June 1, 1889 Fleetwood, Lancashire - March 21, 1957 London) was an English linguist, philosopher, and writer.

Basic English

He is now mostly remembered as the inventor and propagator of Basic English, a constructed language, his primary activity from 1925 until his death.

Basic English is an auxiliary international language of 850 words comprising a system covering everything necessary for everyday purposes. To promote Basic English, Ogden founded the Orthological Institute, from orthology, the abstract term he proposed for its work (see orthoepeia).

At Cambridge

Educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, Cambridge, Ogden obtained the M.A. in 1915. He founded the Cambridge Magazine in 1912 while still an undergraduate, editing it until it ceased publication in 1922. It evolved into an organ of international comment on politics and the war. A survey of the foreign press filled more than half of each issue, and its circulation rose to over 20,000. Ogden often used the pseudonym Adelyne More in his journalism. The magazine also included literary contributions by Siegfried Sassoon, John Masefield, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, and Arnold Bennett.

The editor

In 1923, he took over the editorship of the psychological journal Psyche. He founded and edited two major series of monographs, "The History of Civilisation" and "The International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method"; the latter series included about 100 volumes after one decade. He edited and wrote a number of monographs on a variety of subjects.

Language and philosophy

Although neither a trained philosopher nor an academic, Ogden had a material impact on British academic philosophy. He helped translate Wittgenstein's Tractatus. His most durable work is his monograph (with I. A. Richards) titled The Meaning of Meaning (1923), which went into many editions. This book, which straddled the boundaries among linguistics, literary analysis, and philosophy, drew attention to the significs of Victoria Lady Welby (whose disciple Ogden was) and the semiotics of Charles Peirce. A major step in the "linguistic turn" of 20th century British philosophy, The Meaning of Meaning set out principles for understanding the function of language and described the so-called semantic triangle. It included the inimitable phrase "The gostak distims the doshes."


Ogden ran a network of bookshops in Cambridge, also selling art by the Bloomsbury Group. One such bookshop was looted on the day World War I ended.[1]

He was a voracious book collector; his incunabula, manuscripts, papers of the Brougham family, and Jeremy Bentham collection were purchased by University College London. The balance of his enormous personal library was purchased after his death by the University of California - Los Angeles.


Ogden, C. K., and Richards, I. A., 1949. The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism, 10th ed. With supplementary essays by Bronislaw Malinowski and F. G. Crookshank. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1st ed., 1923.


  1. ^ An eye-witness was I. A. Richards. I came down King's Parade to see a crash of glass breaking. Ogden, by that time, was owner of three shops in Cambridge; one was a picture gallery, the others were book stores. [...] I took my stand beside Ogden. Twenty or thirty drunken medical students were sacking the shop. Pictures were coming out through the plate glass in very dangerous fashion ... Duncan Grant ... Vanessa Bell ... Roger Fry. In Richards on Rhetoric 1991, edited Ann E. Berthoff, p. 8.

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