A dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson

London 1760

Johnson’s dictionary has some unusual definitions in it. 

Distiller: One who makes and sells pernicious and inflammatory spirits.

Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.

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.

Far-fetch: A deep stratagem. A ludicrous word.

Pastern: The knee of a horse. (This is wrong. When Johnson was once asked how he came to make such a mistake, Boswell tells us he replied, ”Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”)

Patron: One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.

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.

To worm: To deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running mad

I particularly enjoy his definition of dull. 

He reminds me both of Jack Aubrey, and of Blackadder. Good company for him.


It keeps getting better!

Oh lord, how I love this. It goes from strength to strength and then adds the Blackadder cherry on top. (Don’t care what anyone says, the best Blackadder series is the 18th C. series.)