Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary


On this date in 1755 Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language was published.

Frye in Anatomy on Johnson’s “bumbling” but still “colloquial and conversational” style:

Students in English are often urged, in Romantic fashion, to use as many short words of native origin as possible, on the ground that they make one’s vocabulary concrete, but a style founded on simple native words can be the most artificial of all styles.  Samuel Johnson at his most bumbling is still colloquial and conversational compared to a William Morris romance.  Standard educated English speech today, with its many long abstract and technical words and the heavy accent on its short ones, is a polysyllabic clatter which is much easier to fit to prose than to verse. (AC 270)

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