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