Friday feast of historical trivia

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  • The venerable Dr Samuel Johnson.

    The venerable Dr Samuel Johnson.

  • The Dictionary of the English Language. Go on, buy one today!

    The Dictionary of the English Language. Go on, buy one today!

The most sincerest contrafibularities to all you jiggumbobs from us slubberdegullions on this Friday the 15th of April, which in 1755 saw the publication of “A dictionary of the English Language” by Samuel Johnson. The first edition contained over 42,000 words and had taken Johnson nine years to write ( that’s 13 words per day!), although he claimed he could have done it in three. He was paid 1500 guineas to write it by a consortium of influential London booksellers, dissatisfied with what was currently available. That equates to a cynanthropic amount of £220,000 or about £5 per word! There had been many fopdoodle attempts and versions of dictionary's but none so conclusive and inclusive of the English language and its everyday use. Samuel Johnson was abecedarian in his study much to everyone's bamboozlement. He obviously was well able to galericulate his compunctous noddle through pericombobulation and his velociterous extramuralisation.
Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire in 1709. He briefly attended university but was forced to leave through lack of funding. He moved to London in 1737 and gained work as a Journalist and writing, slowing building a reputation for himself. He had previously attempted to run “Edial Hall” a country school, “teaching Latin and Greek to young Gentlemen”, with his prized pupil David Garrick, who would eventually achieve fame and fortune as an actor and playwright.
Dr Johnson (as he was sometimes known) was painstaking in his research and definitions. His monumental tome ran into four volumes and ended up costing £4 and 10 shilling per copy, that’s about £625 in todays money, an serious investment for a purveyor of wordsmithary.

Samuel added a sometimes humorous and dry personal edge to his definitions, such as…
“Lexicographer” : a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words.
“Dull” : not exhilarating or delightful; as in “to make dictionaries is dull work”.
“Patron” : one who supports. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence and is paid with flattery.
“Politician” : 1-One versed in the arts of government. 2-A man of artifice and one of deep contrivance.
“Sock” : something put between the foot and the shoe.
In his day Johnson was commonly known as “Dictionary Johnson” and regarded by many as a swingeing critic. But time to decacuminate this twittletwattle.
To quote Captain Mainwaring, “fine words butter no parsnips…”
 

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