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1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

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Monday, 14 April 2008

More from Samuel Johnson

Well, better late than never, I suppose. I promised to complete my alphabetic sprint through Samuel Johnson and here it is. As with the first half they are words that just appealed to me, for all sorts of different reasons, while I was reading the dictionary .

And we'll begin with one which I like primarily for the phrasing of Johnson's definition which is:

to neese: To sneese; to discharge flatulencies by the nose.Retained in Scotland.

Next time I hear someone sneeze I shall, immediately after saying "bless you" tell them that they have just discharged their flatulencies. I'll bet that impresses them.

A slightly more familiar word next though perhaps not with quite the modern meaning.

orgasm: Sudden vehemence.

So if you want to complain about something go up to the salesman, bang your fist on the counter, have an orgasm.

Next up, one of those words that I think should be revived, if only to explain the stains on the trousers when returning from the urinal (and see also the word below for "u") after an excessive splashback.

pissburnt:stained with urine

A rather bizarre offering for "q" and one where I am as puzzled after the definition as I was before it.

to quob: [a low word] To move as the embrio does in the womb.

The next one has been, with a slightly different spelling a favourite of mine since school. I first encountered it in Macbeth where one of the witches, describing her encounter with a sailor's wife says "'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries." Haven't a clue what it means, and nor, it seems, had Johnson, but it's a great sounding insult.

ronion: [I know not the etymology nor certainly the meaning of this word] A fat bulky woman.

Another prime candidate for revival is

seeksorrow: One who contrives to give himself vexation.

I know plenty of those. Is there a modern term for this?

An archaic eponym is next out of the box.

thrasonical [from Thraso, a boaster in old comedy (the footnote identifies it as Eunuchus by Terence)] boastful, bragging

The next word has such a remarkably changed meaning that it caused me to burst out laughing when I read it. That's assuming that Johnson got it right, of course, which is by no means certain.

urinator: a diver, one who searches under water

On the other hand I am rather pleased that the next word is out of use nowadays although it might make a useful plot device in an episode of Lewis. (For the non-British, Lewis is a police series that was a spin off from the earlier series Morse, both of which are set in Oxford.)

vaticide: the murder of poets

Next time you have a stomach upset, it might be the occasion to use

to wamble: to roll with nausea and sickness. It is used of the stomach.

and watch the look of utter bafflement that crosses your doctor's face in response to your "Doctor I've come about the wambling."

There is no section for X so moving on to Y I'll present a word that I expect most people have come across, and one that once again I first came across in the works of the Bard of Avon.

ycleped: [The participle passive of clepe, to call] Called, termed, named.

And bringing up the rear of our romp through the alphabet is, for no special reason,

zetetick: proceding by enquiry.

And that concludes my brief taster to the Dictionary of Samuel Johnson. If you want more, and there's plenty of fun to be had in there for linguaphiles then you can get the same edition that I have in bookshops. It's edited by Jack Lynch, published in 2004 by Levenger Press and I'd tell you the ISBN if I could find it. Or you could just look on Amazon.

1 comment:

Cat said...

seeksorrow's modern equivalent . . . umm . . . immature bastard?

I have enjoyed your edited list. Very amusing.