Today in Literature: April 15, 1755
Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language is published.
[title page from the Vassar Library website]
I append a few of the amusing definitions that are posted on the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page: [visit this site for over 1,800 Johnson quotes / quotations]
Cough: A convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity.
Distiller: One who makes and sells pernicious and inflammatory spirits.
Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.
Excise: A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.
Far-fetch: A deep stratagem. A ludicrous word.
Jobbernowl: Loggerhead; blockhead.
Kickshaw: A dish so changed by the cookery that it can scarcely be known.
Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
Network: Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections. (See how he defined ‘reticulated,’ below.)
Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.
Pastern: The knee of a horse. (This is wrong. When Johnson was once asked how he came to make such a mistake, Boswell tells us he replied, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”)
Patron: One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.
Pension: An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country.
Politician: 1. One versed in the arts of government; one skilled in politicks. 2. A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.
Reticulated: Made of network; formed with interstitial vacuities.
Tory: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig.
Whig: The name of a faction.
To worm: To deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running mad.
For more on Johnson with links, see my previous post here.