Who Was… Sam Johnson

by Andrew Billen

  • Published: 01 Jul 2004
  • Price: £4.99
  • Format: Paperback
  • Extent: 91p
  • ISBN: 9781904095771
  • Buy it now from Amazon.co.uk
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The Wonderful Word Doctor

Sam was a grumpy difficult but fascinating man. He wasn’t handsome. He wasn’t good at sport. He was poor, lazy and not even very happy. But Sam Johnson was a hero. Why? Because of his words. Sam could speak more cleverly and write more amusingly than anyone before or since.

Yes, he wrote many books and magazine articles. He spent nine long years writing the first important dictionary of the English Language. But it isn’t for his writing that Sam is remembered.

What keeps Sam’s memory alive are the clever things he said. Words which are still funny ten centuries later.

‘Forty thousand words were registered in the dictionary. Although Sam was a serious scholar he could not resist paying off some old scores and risking a few jokes among the definitions. Some were against himself

Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.

[…] And some were against his enemies, such as a certain Lord Bollingbroke.

Irony: A mode of speech in which was meaning is contrary to the words as Bollingbroke was an holy man…’

About Andrew Billen

Andrew Billen is a feature writer on, and currently television critic of, The Times. He has worked on The Observer, the Standard and the New Statesman. His previous books include Sam Johnson, The Wonderful Word Doctor also for Short Books. He lives in Oxford, where he went to university, with his wife and young daughter.