Samuel Johnson

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How did Samuel Johnson use his technique in his dictionary entries?

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Briefly, the answer describes Samuel Johnson's technique in his dictionary entries. It mentions that he made no attempt at including every single word in the English language in his Dictionary of the English Language but instead made an effort to bring some semblance of order to the hopeless mishmash of meanings that had accrued in English usage and to give a reasonably accurate account of words and how they were actually used. The writer then substantiates this claim by providing evidence from the text. He discusses Johnson's well-known antipathy to all things Scottish. He states that one of his most famous entries in his Dictionary was the following: oats: a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

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In taking on such an enormous challenge, Dr. Johnson made no attempt at including every single word in the English language in his Dictionary of the English Language. What he hoped to do instead was to bring some semblance of order to the hopeless mishmash of meanings that had accrued in English usage and to give a reasonably accurate account of words and how they were actually used. It was this practical approach that distinguished Johnson's dictionary from all previous efforts at lexicography.

As Johnson was primarily concerned with English as a living, breathing language, it's inevitable that he made some concessions to prevailing prejudices, many of which he himself shared. Known for his legendary antipathy to all things Scottish—notwithstanding his intimate friendship with his amanuensis Boswell—Johnson's most famous entry in his Dictionary was the following:

oats: a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

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You don't specify what "technique" you are focusing upon, so I will assume that you mean his overall approach to creating the Dictionary entries.  Johnson had an amazing sense of humor and sarcastic tone.  He begins with an introduction to the work, explaining that there are bound to be mistakes, that the work will be archaic the day after it is published due to the ever-changing nature of language, and that he makes no excuses.  After years of collecting examples from published works, he put together each entry with painstaking precision, personal quips and commentary, humor, and sarcasm.  Each entry includes the standardized spelling of the word in question, the definition and examples of the way the word is used from contemporary authors, the Bible, and other publications.   A careful study of a handful of entries will give the discerning reader more than enough evidence of all these factors.  My favorites include "patron," "oats," "lexicographer," and "ketchup."  I'm sure you will find others that amuse you just as much.

Good Luck!

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