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 Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 12:01

When compared to its modern counterparts the dictionary undertaken by Samuel Johnson, on the face of it, is no longer "fit for purpose" (to quote a modern euphemism beloved of the officious, the official and the semantically offensive these days). Johnson didn't help his own cause - to create the definitive reference for standard English definitions - by allowing his own personality invade his work (who can forget: "Oats. n.s. [aten, Saxon.] A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." or his delicious "Patron: One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery."?).

Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? 1414477107

However faulty and all as his dictionary may have been - as noted even upon its publication by contemporary luminaries such as Adam Smith who took such profound exception to Johnson's preference for "but" over "than" - it still stands supreme today as, quite literally, a supreme swindle sheet of the language of its day, how it was used, who used it and why. Take any page at random and you will be guaranteed to find a fantastic word that Johnson felt merited inclusion, even if today in all likelihood we not only might never have heard of the term but cannot even find it anymore within the extant literature and documentation from the mid eighteenth century, the period when Sam was assembling his vocabulary for publication.

And yet there are so many which merit a revival - if only because we do not now have a word to match, or simply because Johnson's word just sounded that so much better!

A few of my favourites, my thoughts in brackets beneath:

Opsímathy. n.s. [ὀψιμάθία.] Late education; late erudition.
(An aspiration we all should hold dear)

Quook. preterite of quake. Obsolete.
(That quook became quook is a rather fulgid example of what I mean - as Johnson might have said)

Figure-Flinger. n.s. [figure and fling.] A pretender to astrology and prediction.
(Hawkin and Dawkins beware!)

Bu'ffleheaded. adj. [from buffle and head.] A man with a large head; dull; stupid; foolish.
(Apparently from "buffalo", and definitely a word that I shall be using in the foreseeable)

Have a delve yourself, why don't you, and see if you can't give your vocab some rehab? -

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 13:22

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.

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.

Love it, Samuel!
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 13:32

Contrafibularities Nordmann;

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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 14:00

I was waiting for that, Trike ...  Smile

Johnson of course couldn't keep his own politics out of his book. I like this one;

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.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 15:07

And his self deprecating humour,

Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.



Edmund Blackadder was right about one thing ... he doesn't have aardvark, though he does have sausage!
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 15:31

@nordmann wrote:


Johnson of course couldn't keep his own politics out of his book. I like this one;

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.

Repúblican. n.s. [from republick.] One who thinks a commonwealth without monarchy the best government

With his view on the American War of Independence;
"How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"
Johnson: Taxation No Tyranny

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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 15:42

@Meles meles wrote:
And his self deprecating humour,


Edmund Blackadder was right about one thing ... he doesn't have aardvark, though he does have sausage!


And far too early for Dinosaur
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 07 Dec 2015, 15:59

He doesn't have badger either. Sad

Though he does have weasle ... which apparently is a small animal that eats corn. Suspect
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyTue 08 Dec 2015, 13:16

Looks like they have only transcripted part of the Dictionary;

Johnsons badger

no Aardvark though.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 09 Dec 2015, 18:16

It would be useful if someone could dig out and coin a few superlatives as the common well is running dry. 'Great' 'fabulous' and 'amazin' have run their course - there are, of course, 'youf' words that I know not - and now 'incredible' is over worked. Words that can be applied to 2 mins of ballroom dancing and for would be super singing stars - most of whom will get voted out next week but are for a few moments judged excellent will do....... Winning 'hairy socks' may not go down well - but what joy to apply! Thanks for that, Temp!
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyThu 10 Dec 2015, 15:24

@Priscilla wrote:
It would be useful if someone could dig out and coin a few superlatives as the common well is running dry. 'Great' 'fabulous' and 'amazin' have run their course - there are, of course, 'youf' words that I know not - and now 'incredible' is over worked. Words that can be applied to 2 mins of ballroom dancing and for would be super singing stars - most of whom will get voted out next week but are for a few moments judged excellent will do.......



Well, not from Johnson's Dictionary (don't know if the following are there as I can't open link), but "passing"  "wondrous" and "prodigious" might serve, Priscilla:


Othello:
My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs;
She swore, in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;
'Twas pitiful. 'twas wondrous pitiful,
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd
That heaven had made her such a man,


(Othello Act 1, scene 3, 158–163)

"Passing strange," a phrase currently enjoying a comeback, means "surpassingly strange"—stranger than strange. "Passing" was often used adverbially in the Renaissance, which had a keen sense of the superlative in human achievement. "Wondrous" is similar, as in above.

I like prodigious. It's used nowadays to mean very big, as in prodigious appetite, but it originally meant abnormal or monstrous or marvellously strange (prodigiosus - Latin - marvellous). So it was used, certainly in the 17th century, to mean pretty wonderful, abnormally good:

So Simon or Craig could show appreciation for an outstanding performance by exclaiming:

"God-a-mercy, sir, but that was a prodigious fine song/Argentine tango you gave us there!"

I love Doctor Johnson. Any one who worried that his cat (Hodge) was upset because he, Johnson, had praised another cat too fulsomely is OK in my book. Mind you, Hodge was spoilt rotten - all those oysters!


Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? HodgeHodge, sitting on the Dictionary.


As a non-cat person himself, Boswell was much surprised at the "indulgence with which he treated Hodge". Dr Johnson had such a high regard for his cat he would go out himself to purchase oysters for the cat. Apparently he did so in case the servants became resentful of doing so and took "a dislike to the poor creature". Boswell also writes that he recalled seeing Hodge "scrambling up Dr Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction", while the Doctor rubbed the cat's back and gently tugged his tail. To his credit, for a non cat lover, Boswell remarked that Hodge was a fine cat, to which Dr Johnson replied, "Why yes, sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this". However, upon observing that his poor cat seemed put out, added, "But he is a very fine cat; a very fine cat indeed."
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptySat 12 Dec 2015, 12:34

Although Johnson's Dictionary might not be considered 'fit for purpose' in the 21st century, his Preface on its own is one of the greatest pieces of writing in the English language. Full of self-contradiction it's and absolute joy to read. Take this paragraph for example:

'In settling the orthography, I have not wholly neglected the pronunciation, which I have directed, by printing an accent upon the acute or elevated syllable. It will sometimes be found, that the accent is placed by the author quoted, on a different syllable from that marked in the alphabetical series; it is then to be understood, that custom has varied, or that the authour has, in my opinion, pronounced wrong. Short directions are sometimes given where the sound of letters is irregular; and if they are sometimes omitted, defect in such minute observations will be more easily excused, than superfluity.'

The second sentence there is particularly hilarious. Check out the 2 different spellings of 'author'/'authour' and also the dialectically specific use of 'pronounced wrong'. In other English dialects that might be written 'pronounced wrongly'. One can't help but think that Johnson is periodically being tongue-in-cheek throughout the Preface and indeed throughout the Dictionary.

P.S. Neither is the word 'author' (or 'authour') listed among the dictionary's entries.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptySun 13 Dec 2015, 10:11

Drifting somewhat into the realms of general linguistic obsolescence, here'a a list of 20 words that have either disappeared or never really got going in the first place:
http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/20-obsolete-english-words-that-should-make-a-comeback/

I'm rather taken with  a couple that seem appropriate for any message board........


12. Perissology
Noun – “Use of more words than are necessary; redundancy or superfluity of expression”


and

17. Widdendream
Noun – “A state of mental disturbance or confusion”




But let's not brabble about it.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 14 Dec 2015, 14:57

Someone I know who reads Res Hiss posts but isn't (yet) a member, asked me if I had meant "prodigiously fine" instead of "prodigious fine" in my message above. No, I meant "prodigious fine": that's how it was written in my 17th century source. But that got me wondering about the adverbial ending "ly". Using an adjective to qualify another adjective is not really correct; adverbs should be used to modify adjectives (as well as their usual function of "adding to" verbs), although we still say "pretty good" (there is an adverbial form "prettily" - as in Jane Austen: "She draws very prettily"). "Pretty good" does sound pretty slangy to my old ears, but I've never come across "prettily good" - that sounds daft. The Americans, of course, use "real" instead of "really" all the time. "That's a real stupid thing to say, Donald," sounds very American - no older English person would use the expression, although a younger person might: "We had a real good time last night..."

Wonder when "ly" became the correct form of most - but not all - adverbs? Something to do with Anglo-Saxon/Germanic lice and lich?







Last edited by Temperance on Mon 14 Dec 2015, 15:51; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyMon 14 Dec 2015, 15:44

@Priscilla wrote:
It would be useful if someone could dig out and coin a few superlatives as the common well is running dry. 'Great' 'fabulous' and 'amazin' have run their course ...

Well we could, with only the merest hint of irony, bring back "awful" in its original sense meaning full of awe to the beholder, awe-inspring in other words, ...  as in the contemporary desciption of Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's cathedral, as being, "... amusing, awful, and artificial ...", ie meaning amazing, awe-inspiring, and artistic.

PS

Temp, re your comment,
Quote :
"Wonder when "ly" became the correct form of most - but not all - adverbs? Something to do with Anglo-Saxon/Germanic lice and lich?

....... I noticed (over on the Rant thread) your use of "hopefully":

Temp wrote:
I had one rogue Christmas card left to send - to South Africa - so I joined the cards and parcels queue and hopefully handed it over.

....... thus saying that you handed the card over with your hopes that it would be despatched correctly [ie perfectly clear to me as, well, the past perfect tense].

However I think modern usage would tend to use 'hopefully' in a slightly differently manner, as in:
"I handed my letter over and hopefully [now implying a future/conditional tense] it will be despatched correctly to its destination."

When I briefly worked as a journalist for the BBC (Science On-line) I once got taken to task for my use of 'hopefully' because I used it exactly as you did, and indeed as did Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre when she stated that she'd: "travelled hopefully". To his credit my BBC editor did acknowledge that I was strictly correct ... but then demanded that I change the wording because he thought the modern readership wouldn't understand.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 16 Dec 2015, 11:55

@Meles meles wrote:


PS

Temp, re your comment,
Quote :
"Wonder when "ly" became the correct form of most - but not all - adverbs? Something to do with Anglo-Saxon/Germanic lice and lich?

....... I noticed (over on the Rant thread) your use of "hopefully":

Temp wrote:
I had one rogue Christmas card left to send - to South Africa - so I joined the cards and parcels queue and hopefully handed it over.

....... thus saying that you handed the card over with your hopes that it would be despatched correctly [ie perfectly clear to me as, well, the past perfect tense].

However I think modern usage would tend to use 'hopefully' in a slightly differently manner, as in:
"I handed my letter over and hopefully [now implying a future/conditional tense] it will be despatched correctly to its destination."

When I briefly worked as a journalist for the BBC (Science On-line) I once got taken to task for my use of 'hopefully' because I used it exactly as you did, and indeed as did Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre when she stated that she'd: "travelled hopefully". To his credit my BBC editor did acknowledge that I was strictly correct ... but then demanded that I change the wording because he thought the modern readership wouldn't understand.



Yes, I did mean "with hope in my heart", but, reading it again, I suppose it does sound strange. (Or should that be "doth sound strangely unto mine ear"? - now I really have confused myself.  Mad ) I often use old-fashioned expressions and get funny looks. In my loftier moments (I do have the odd one now and again), I like to think it's the influence of reading lots of good literature, but I suspect the sad truth is I've watched far too much bad historical drama, courtesy of Hollywood and Pinewood (haven't we all?).

I'm still mulling over adverbs, like you do a week before Christmas. Sometime during the 19th century using adjectives adverbially seems to have become a linguistic marker for "lower-class": before that it was quite aristocratic to get your grammar "wrong" (whatever "wrong" means).

For example:

Lord Uxbridge: "By God, sir, I've lost my leg!"

Duke of Wellington: "By God, so you have. Terrible careless of you, sir!"

Delivered in a suitably posh English accent, the above is acceptable, whereas this, forty years or so later at Sevastopol, from a common soldier of Liverpool Irish descent, sounds all wrong:

"The b*stards have blown his bleedin' leg off - Holy Mother of Gawd, but that's going to hurt him terrible bad... "
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 16 Dec 2015, 12:38

as in the contemporary desciption of Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's cathedral, as being, "... amusing, awful, and artificial ...", ie meaning amazing, awe-inspiring, and artistic.

Or perhaps sick, wicked and amazeballs.


I want this for my Christmas!


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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 16 Dec 2015, 13:17

@ferval wrote:



Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? 1_2f795aa0-d874-4b69-992f-d1850eebf7ed_grande




But what is correct? Who dares "correct" anything these days? Whose rules rule?

Got to mention the witticism believed to be one of Churchill's best:


The saying attributed to Winston Churchill rejecting the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition must be among the most frequently mutated witticisms ever.


The alt.english.usage FAQ states that the story originated with an anecdote in Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words (1948). Supposedly an editor had clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, and the Prime Minister, very proud of his style, scribbled this note in reply: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” The American Heritage Book of English Usage agrees.


The FAQ goes on to say that the Oxford Companion to the English Language (no edition cited) states that the original was “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” To me this sounds more likely, and eagerness to avoid the offensive word “bloody” would help to explain the proliferation of variations.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 16 Dec 2015, 13:56

A current trend that annoys me is the use of the present participle as an adjective (at least I think that's how it would be described, I'm not good at formally describing grammar), for example in say:

"the state of education is concerning"
or
"this drug is addicting"

... a usage that now appears frequently in the language of even government ministers and newspapers.

I'm not entirely sure why I can accept: "this is worrying/irritating/annoying/disturbing" etc, yet baulk at, "this is concerning and addicting", but there it is, to me it just doesn't sound right.
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PostSubject: Re: Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival?   Johnson's Dictionary - time for a revival? EmptyWed 16 Dec 2015, 14:57

I just try to always remember these 20 key points, courtesy of 'The Grauniad' from the 1990s:

1.  Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
2.  Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3.  And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4.  It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5.  Avoid clichés like the plague.
6.  Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7.  Generally be more or less specific.
8.  Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9.  No sentence fragments.
10. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
11. One should never generalise.
12. Don't use no double negatives.
13. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
14. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
15. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
16. Kill all exclamation marks!!!
17. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
18. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
19. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
20. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
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