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07 November 2007

words on wednesday

At the beginning of the year, one of my non-resolutions was to blog more often. As frequent visitors might note, that didn't happen. In fact as there became less opportunity for frequent visitors to be frequent readers, they, unsurprisingly, became less frequent visitors.

One of the things that I thought I would do would be to have a weekly post titled something like this one -- Words on Wednesday. It was to be about, duh, words. It's only taken me to the 45th week of the year for an inaugural Words on Wednesday post.

One of the reasons I make non-resolutions: Follow-through. Or lack thereof.

This evening, after continuing reading more of Thomas Paine (on to The Age of Reason), I was looking for something in the bookcase. Whatever it was, was lost to me once I glanced upon the copy of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary that I picked up on a bargain table months ago. This is not the full 2-volume dictionary, but selections from Johnson's famed work.

In the introduction to this edition, Coleridge is cited as saying that it wasn't so much a dictionary as "a most instructive and entertaining book. A quick look through some of the "A" entries supports that:

abbey-lubber. A slothful loiterer in a religious house, under pretence of retirement and austerity.
This is no Father Dominic, no huge/overgrown abbeylubber; this is but a/ diminutive sucking friar.

abecedarian [from the names of a, b, c, the three first letters of the alphabet.] He that teaches or learns the alphabet, or first rudiments of literature.

This word is used by Wood in his Athenae Oxonienses, where mentioning Farnaby the critic, he relates, that, in some part of his life, he was reduced to follow the trade of an abecedarian by his misfortunes.

abracadabra A superstitious charm against agues.

ague An intermitting fever, with cold fits succeeded by hot. The cold fit is, in popular language, more particularly called the ague, and the hot the fever.
Our castle's strength/Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie/Till famine and the ague eat them up. Shakespeare. Macbeth.

answer-jobber [from answer and jobber] He that makes a trade of writing answers.
What disgusts me from having anything to do with answer-jobbers, is, that they have no conscience. Swift.

And two of my favorites:

to hang an arse A vulgar phrase, signifying to be tardy, sluggish, or dilatory.
For Hudibras wore but one spur,/As wisely knowing, could he stir/To active trot one side of's horse,/ The other would not hang an arse. Hudibras, cant. i.

asshead n.s. [from ass and head] One slow of apprehension; a blockhead.
Will you help an asshead, and a coxcomb,/and a knave, a thin-faced knave, a gull. Shakespeare. Hamlet.


I will have to continue to read the introduction to the Dictionary and Johnson's Plan. Maybe I'll post some more on this. Maybe on a Wednesday.

For now I need to get some sleep, or I will hang an arse getting to work tomorrow and have to deal with some real assheads.

2 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I should use that word "asshead" -- what a great word! I'd like to look around in Johnson's Dictionary too -- what a treasure.

Cam said...

I must confess that I thought of the appropriate use of this word several times today. If James Lipton asked me what my favorite curse word was, I think I'd so enjoy saying, "Asshead. Good enough for Shakespeare and Johnson". Not that I am in any way likely to be on Actors Studio.