Monday, September 18, 2017

Samuel Johnson

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 261: Today, I am grateful Samuel Johnson.

The dictionary has always been one of my favorite books!

Today is the 308th birthday of Samuel Johnson. In 1755, He published "A Dictionary of the English Language". It took 8 years, 6 helpers and contained 40,000 word. His book is considered the ancestor of the modern dictionary. 

Containing over 114,000 quotations, Johnson was the first English lexicographer to use citations in this way. His method that greatly influenced the style of future dictionaries. He searched through books going back to the 1500's. 

He used Milton and Shakespeare quotes to clarify meaning... or at least his opinion of the meaning.  Johnson scribbled,underlined, highlighted, altered and corrected the words in the books he read if the writer used the wrong word. This was much to the horror of acquaintances who had lent him their expensive books! Some suspect, he even invented a few words. 

Johnson deemed the English language was a mess. What would he think of it now? His dictionary was his passion project, with hopes of stabilizing and refining the English language. He was pompous and humorous. His dictionary was full of his personality and political opinions. 

Is it perfect? No. But, it is great. The father of the modern dictionary and all the dictionaries that would follow. I used to think the assignment "Use the word in a sentence." was busy work. Now, I understand that it helps us grasp the true meaning of a word. 

This scripture came to mind. God's Word is perfect. Every translation from the original Hebrew and Greek allows us a deeper look into the meaning of each passage.  is an online Bible reference that allows us to go back to the original languages and dig for deeper meaning. It is a modern day dictionary and concordance. 

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. -Proverbs 30:5

Not every interpretation by man of his word is perfect, but I am deeply grateful to be able to cross reference at the click of a button. For years, all we had was King James Version. For those who don't speak King James English... understanding is difficult. It is more like a foreign language. 

I believe that God guards his word. Those who translate it, love it. The committees are careful to get it as right as they can. At times, you see footnotes because they trust that the Holy Spirit will guide the reader. The "correct" or "best" word may come to a stalemate, so they footnote. 

We all need a little help with grasping the understanding of words. It begins when we here our first "No!" as a baby. We test the limits. We tweak our response. I am grateful for ample, modern resources. 

It can all be traced back to a quirky Englishman who loved words.  

Today, I am grateful Samuel Johnson.

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