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#6087 - 09/06/00 05:47 AM Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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In today's post there arrived a copy of "Johnson's Dictionary: A Modern Selection" edited by E.L. McAdam Jr. and George Milne (New York: Random House [Pantheon], 1963). This is an abridgement of Dr. Samuel Johnson's original 2300-page "Dictionary of the English Language" first published in 1755. It contains a definition of lexicologist (which Johnson most certainly was), to wit:
"A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words." (p. 233) As something of a minor lexicologist myself, I very much appreciated this.



#6088 - 09/06/00 04:00 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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Greetings, Father Steve and welcome.

When Webster (with Benjamin Franklin's help) was busily compiling the first dictionary of American English, he had no model to go on but Dr. Johnson's. Interesting aside (and this is probably more appropriately posted in the "British vs American" thread): Many of the cross-Pond spelling differences were actually introduced by Webster & Franklin as a means of emphasizing the U.S. was by the late 18th century an independent (one hesitates to use the term "sovereign") nation.


#6089 - 09/06/00 07:10 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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Thank you, Father Steve, for that wonderful example.
Welcome aBoard!


#6090 - 09/06/00 07:33 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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In today's post there arrived a copy of "Johnson's Dictionary: A Modern Selection" edited by E.L. McAdam Jr. and George Milne

What a treasure! How many wondrous hours could be frittered away lost inside those pages? I wonder, does your copy include his definition of "internecine"? I read somewhere that the modern usage of that word derives from Johnson mistaking the purpose of the prefix inter- in connection with "necine." I also wonder if this is the right place to mention that the episode of "Blackadder" featuring Dr. Johnson and his dictionary is one of the best out of any of the four series, and certainly one of my favourites.


#6091 - 09/06/00 08:49 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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In reply to:

I wonder, does your copy include his definition of "internecine"? I read somewhere that the modern usage of that word derives from Johnson mistaking the purpose of the prefix inter- in connection with "necine."


max, you've outdone yourself! a self-YART no less!!

just so's you can rest easy on this one, here is the apposite OED entry, as near as I can purloin it:

App. first used as a rendering of L. internecinum bellum, in Butler's Hudibras (to which also is due the unetymological pronunciation). On this authority entered by Johnson in his Dictionary, with an incorrect explanation, due to association with words like interchange, intercommunion, etc. in which inter- has the force of ‘mutual’, ‘each other’. From J. the word has come into later dictionaries and 19th c. use, generally in the Johnsonian sense.]

1. orig. Deadly, destructive, characterized by great slaughter. internecine war, war for the sake of slaughter, war of extermination, war to the death.

2. esp. (In modern use.) Mutually destructive, aiming at the slaughter or destruction of each other.



#6092 - 09/06/00 09:06 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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max, you've outdone yourself! a self-YART no less!!

Not so! I know that I mentioned that point in another thread. It's just that my information was second hand, and I had not been able to verify it. When first I mentioned it, I received neither confirmation nor denial of the accuracy of my information. Thus, when Father Steve mentioned that he had Johnson's work, it seemed an ideal opportunity to extract the datum directly from the cliched equine's oral cavity, as it were. Perhaps if I sold a kidney, I might be able to afford a down payment on the OED, but until then I shall have to make do with leeching from the learned. Try multiplying 550 by 2.23, and you may appreciate why the annual fee for access to the OED online is not so attractive in NZD. That's why I am very grateful for those who do have such resources available, especially when they are tolerant of incorrigible YARTists.



#6093 - 09/06/00 09:26 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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In reply to:

Try multiplying 550 by 2.23, and you may appreciate why the annual fee for access to the OED online is not so attractive in NZD.


...but one can have the CD-ROM for a lousy $250 dollar-bucks American!


#6094 - 09/06/00 09:33 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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...but one can have the CD-ROM for a lousy $250 dollar-bucks American!

Hmm, $560. I guess it makes sense to start saving my cents. Which raises another qustion that has long intrigued me: Why do Americans refer to cents as pennies? It seems a quaint relic from the imperial currency system, given that both dollar and cent would appear to be derived from Spanish. BTW, may I say that I'm rather proud of "YARTist"?



#6095 - 09/06/00 11:16 PM Re: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary  
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The McAdam and Milne edition of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary does not offer a definition of "internecine" perhaps due to its abbreviated (465 v. 2600 pages)form. The following note appears in "The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories" (Springfield, 1991, pp. 242-3): "The Latin noun nex 'violent death' gave rise to the verb necare 'to kill' and internecare 'to kill without exception, to massacre'; on the latter the adjective internecinus 'fought to the death, devastating' was formed. In Latin the prefix inter- did not always carry the meaning 'between' ... but was used in some words to denote the completion of an action, which in the case of internecinus means 'to the death'. ... When Samuel Johnson was preparing his Dictionary (1755), however, he was either unaware of the completive meaning of inter- or (more likely) misconstrued its meaning in the available examples of internecine, since he defined it as 'endeavouring mutual destruction'. On the other hand, when Noah Webster came to define internecine for his Dictionary (1828), he gave only the original sense of 'deadly, destructive'. It was not until the 1864 revision of Webster's Dictionary that the Johnsonian sense of 'mutually destructive' was added. This latter sense gained acceptance among the literati of the nineteenth century, superceding the word's original meaning. ...

This sheds some light, yes?


#6096 - 09/06/00 11:20 PM Re: Dollars and cents  
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YARTist,

I can't resist putting my two pennies in: Don't know why we hang on to the old Imperial pennies (though I do wish we had hung on to the Imperial pint, pub-wise). However, dollar does not derive from Spanish. It comes from German, Thaler , via Old English (where's my eth key when I need it?)


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