This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Saturday Rave: The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. by James Boswell.

Book anniversaries are always popping up, but one of the anniversaries being celebrated this year is an unusual, and possibly a unique, one.

Two hundred and fifty years ago this year, in a London bookshop, an aristocratic and fashionable young man-about-town met an unclean, unfashionable, and rather gruff writer of a dictionary - and, in a way, he fell in love.

The young man was neither very wise nor very good, but somehow (to the lasting irritation of many wiser and better people) he went on to write an original and superb biography of the dictionary-writer, who was called Dr Johnson.

Here's a taste of the book. This passage concerns Dame Oliver, who was Dr Johnson's first teacher in his home town of Lichfield.

When he [Dr Johnson] was going to Oxford, she came to take leave of him, brought him, in the simplicity of her kindness, a present of gingerbread, and said, he was the best scholar she ever had. He delighted in mentioning this early compliment: adding, with a smile, that 'this was as high a proof of his merit as he could conceive.'

And there, in an incident that anyone else but Boswell would have left out, is Lichfield in the 1700s, clear before us. And there also, behind the gruff exterior, is the warm heart of the man who, thanks to Boswell, is still held in great affection to this day.

Word To Use Today: dictionary. This word comes from the Latin word dictiōnārium, a collection of words, from dictiō, which means word.


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