Thursday 25 July 2013

dictionary love.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859), so well known for collecting folk and fairy tales, also wrote the definitive German dictionary - those green books that Molly is using as a bed.  The undertaking was so ambitious that it was only completed in 1961, many years after their deaths.  Alas, my German is not yet good enough to make use of it. 

Die Brüder Grimm
by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

Nice as that dictionary is, what I really, really covet is a first edition of the dictionary written by Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784): A Dictionary of the English Language, published 1755.  (Considering it would put one back a few thousand euros, pounds, or dollars, it will remain a dream.)

Dr. Samuel Johnson
by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Dr. Johnson (poet, essayist, literary critic, biographer, editor, lexicographer) was possessed of a huge, restless intellect coupled with an irascible character, and subject to alarming tics (most likely caused by Tourette Syndrome), crippling bouts of depression, and numerous other physical ailments throughout his long life.  His writings are full of biting wit and keen observation.  One of the best known biographies in the English language was created by his friend James Boswell, his "Life of Samuel Johnson." 

One of my all time favourite programmes, Blackadder, has an episode which casts one of my all time favourite actors, Robbie Coltrane, as Samuel Johnson: "Ink and Incapability".  It deals with the creation of Johnson's dictionary.  Do check it out if you can.  It's a hoot and a half.  


  1. Ah,where would we be without Grimms fairy tales?

    No need to read....... Molly has found a way to absorb knowledge..... while asleep!
    I like Blackadder too,unfortunately material of this quality appears so seldom.


    1. I'd love to lay my head on those books and come up fluent! Yes, Molly has the right idea.
      It's so true, Ruby, how seldom you find such quality programmes as Blackadder. It's always a treat to watch them. Hamish Macbeth is another favourite. Being in Scotland, I assume you know that one?

  2. Helloooooooooo Lynn! Nice post. Love kitties; like dictionaries (have three, none that good though). So you win the prize having a kitty on top of a set of dictionaries! :P

    And don't put that dictionary (the one by Samuel Johnson) out of your wealth-range: you NEVER know what riches the universe has in store for you! [I am reading a channeled book by Abraham-Hicks on manifesting, and it is all about the vibes: either believing in your abundance or not.] You really should believe...why? 'Cuz I believe for ya!

    Hugs, jan

    1. You're right, Jan. It's so easy to assume that certain things are never going to happen, or are completely out of the question, but that's kind of precluding them from ever happening, isn't it? If I ever become the proud owner of a first edition, I'll have you to thank! : )

  3. Yes, indeed, I love dictionaries!

    I am always in awe of the vast amount of work that goes into updating and producing every new edition of the major dictionaries and the astonishingly convoluted debates about what new terms, words and phrases should or should not be included.

    Blackadder: "Well, let's leave A and B for now and have a go at C."

    Baldric: "I know!"

    Blackadder: "Go on..."

    Baldric: "Big blue wobbly thing wot mermaids live in."


    1. It is an unbelievable undertaking, isn't it.
      All the more daunting when you realize you've forgotten aardvark!

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  5. Thanks for all the literary tips. And thank you for leaving such supportive and helpful comments at my blog posts on my health issues and artist block.. truly helpful.

    1. You're very welcome, Donna.
      Hope all is going well for you.