Saturday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Good morning!

Today in 1755 Samuel Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language” was published in London. It was a mammoth undertaking, requiring almost a decade of work and it remained the definitive authority until the Oxford Dictionary was completed nearly two centuries later. It had been deliberately commissioned as pre-existing dictionaries were relatively poor and incomplete. Johnson’s dictionary is a little different from the relatively dry descriptions and meticulously researched etymologies that we are used  to today, for example:

Cough: A convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity. It is pronounced coff

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

As it was, Johnson’s dictionary was so large and expensive that it cost more to print than Johnson’s entire remuneration on the project and sold at around 200 copies per year for the next three decades. Although it was hardly without flaw or error, it was hugely influential for more than a century.

This clip is from the BBC show Blackadder, which if you haven’t seen you ought to try to get a hold of. (Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson etc.) I thought it might be a good fit, as this scene features Johnson on his completion of his great work.

Today in 1912, RMS Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg and the tragedy has been exhaustively documented both by researchers and dramatists ever since.

It’s also the birthday of British conductor Neville Marriner (1924-2016) who founded an orchestra named the Academy of St Martin in the Fields – the unusually long name of conductor and orchestra always cracked me up as a kid when it was intoned by serious-sounding radio announcers. Anyway, it’s as good excuse as any to listen to this sinfonia “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel, something that to me is the sound of unbridled joy. One of the commenters on this video quipped “Sheba sure was in a rush to meet Solomon”.

Finally, we catch up with the doings of Hili, a cat beyond reproach in thought and deed.

A: The environs of my chair are always crowded.
Hili: That’s quite natural, he is always following you around.

In Polish:

Ja: Okolice mojego fotela są zawsze zatłoczone.
Hili: To chyba naturalne, on ciągle za tobą chodzi.


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Regarding Hili, I find it best to have two of everything. One for cat and one for me.

    I believe they are doing tours down to the Titanic, if you have $100 thousand to throw.

    Blackadder looks very good. Hope the BBCA picks this up.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 15, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Blackadder is brilliant. There are four series, and they’re about 30 years old now. They haven’t diminished at all with time. You wouldn’t regret buying the videos or DVDs.

      Regarding the episode with Samuel Johnson, another word Blackadder pointed out was missing is “sausage”. 🙂

      • jeremy pereira
        Posted April 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        Actually Johnson found that out for himself after reading Baldrick’s novel.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Yes, you’re right – I mis-remembered. My bad. 😦

          • Mike
            Posted April 20, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            The last ever episode ,set in WW1, when they finally go over the top I found very poignant.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted April 20, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              I cried.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted April 16, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Blackadder series 2,3 and 4 are some of the best sitcoms you’ll see anywhere IMO. This episode regarding Johnson’s dictionary probably has the best writing of any of the episodes and the final episode of season 4 might be the greatest half hour sitcom episode ever.

      That’s all IMO btw.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 17, 2017 at 4:04 am | Permalink

        And I thought Blackadder 1 (i.e. The Black Adder) was the best. It’s all a matter of taste.


        • jeremy pereira
          Posted April 18, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          Some strange people do, but even Rowan Atkinson though series one would have been better if they’d put some jokes in it.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 18, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            I thought the comedy was in the situations. Didn’t need one-liners.

            And I think it also benefited from being a ‘first-in-its-field’ as a historical comedy. I can’t recall any of significance before that.


            • jeremy pereira
              Posted April 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

              He meant it in the sense that series one wasn’t really funny enough (for most people). It was also very expensive which is why it nearly got canned.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 18, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                Well obviously Rowan Atkinson has no idea what makes for good comedy then.


                (Do I have to add that I was – joking?)

  2. Jon Mummaw
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Also this morning, if you’d like to watch a giraffe live birth , April, the pregnant giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY, is in labor.

    • Blue
      Posted April 15, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Spectacular, Mr Mummaw. Thank YOU for posting !

      Any moment now ! 8:28am Central USA / Saturday morning !

      Mama’s name ? A P R I L !


      • Blue
        Posted April 15, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        ! B O R N ! 8:54am Central USA / Saturday morning !

        O golly ! Mama April is doing such a fine, fine job bringing Babe around ! ie, LUNGS work !

        So lovely ! Thank you again, Mr Mummaw.


  3. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    My favourite series of Blackadder is the third one. It never seems to get quite the same respect as the fourth and second but it’s the one my dad bought when I was seven or eight and I made him watch it over and over, until he refused to ever put it in the video player again.
    That particular ‘Dictionary’ episode also has a wonderful team up between the prince regent and Baldrick, who take it upon themselves to rewrite the dictionary for Blackadder after it’s burnt in the fire, filling it with words like ‘bottom’, ‘bum’, ‘burp’, etc.

    That was a purple patch for sitcoms back then. Another great was Young Ones, starring plenty of Blackadder alumni, which revolved around a bunch of useless student characters: the punk, the annoying lefty, the hippy, the baffling, mysterious older student. To my chagrin, real university turned out to be much less interesting.
    Here’s a taste, with Rik Mayall at his joyously paranoid, insecure best:

    • Posted April 15, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget the definition for “Dog”: Not a cat.


      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted April 15, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        I like to think Jerry would agree with that definition, since it captures all the relevant information about dogs in three words.

      • jeremy pereira
        Posted April 16, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        I’ve done C.

        Big blue wobbly thing with fish in it.

  4. rickflick
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Fun read today. And the birthday of the giraffe! Good omen.

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    A long while ago (but not sure when) my uncle (d. 1957) found a copy of SJ’s Dictionary in a used book store, I think in Philadelphia, with woefully deteriorated binding. They didn’t seem to be aware what it was, and he bought it before they could realize what it was. My parents wound up with it, and it now resides (rebound) along with several other copies in the Rare Book collection @ Wm&Mary

  6. Blue
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Mr Rowan Atkinson is such a darling !

    And I adore his (more recent) papally pap pastiche as well ! ” … … do you do children’s parties ?!”

    “.This. guy is really good.” and
    ” … … cleft her in ‘twain !”

    ” … … in a one camel – town,” I am

  7. Mike Cracraft
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Handel’s Solomon is to my mind his greatest oratorio. A masterpiece from beginning to end and one that is rarely performed

  8. drew
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget what is, in my opinion, the greatest story about Dr. Johnson.

    Upon finishing his work we was visited by congratulators and well wishers. One story involves him being visited by a delegation of respectable ladies of London.

    “Dr. Johnson,” they said, “we are delighted to find that you have not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.”

    “Ladies,” said Dr. Johnson, “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.”

    (As recounted by the late Christopher Hitchens)

  9. Kevin
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Arrival of Queen Sheba. Fantastic.

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