Search us!

Search The Word Detective and our family of websites:

This is the easiest way to find a column on a particular word or phrase.

To search for a specific phrase, put it between quotation marks.






Comments are closed.

Unfortunately, new comments on posts on this site have been suspended because of my illness.

Previously approved comments will remain visible.

I deeply appreciate the erudition and energy of our commenters. Your contributions to this site have been invaluable. But I can no longer devote the time necessary to separate good comments from the hundreds of spam comments submitted.

Because Wordpress weirdly doesn't allow me to simply turn off comments en masse, comment boxes will still appear at the foot of posts.



shameless pleading

First Man of Letters

Interesting review of two biographies of Samuel Johnson:

… Intellectually, too, Johnson pointed toward a new sensibility. His Dictionary of the English Language (1755) marked a revolution in English letters by being descriptive rather than prescriptive: In other words, he gave up on the project of creating a dictionary that would purify the unruly language by fixing meanings and pronunciations (as the Académie Française had recently attempted across the Channel) in favor of simply describing the state of English as it was spoken at that time and had been in the past. His philosophy and achievement cleared the path for the Oxford English Dictionary begun a century later. “Language,” Johnson wrote, “is the work of man, of a being from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived.” Of words, he said that “like their author, when they are not gaining strength, they are generally losing it. Though art may sometimes prolong their duration, it will rarely give them perpetuity.”

more via First Man of Letters.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please support
The Word Detective

(and see each issue
much sooner)

by Subscribing.


Follow us on Twitter!




New! You have questions? How Come? has the answers!

400+ pages of science questions answered and explained for kids -- and adults!