Saturday, 11 August 2012

A lexicographer's view

"But as every language has a time of rudeness antecedent to perfection, as well as of false refinement and declension, I have been cautious lest my zeal for antiquity might drive me into times too remote, and crowd my book with words now no longer understood.  I have fixed Sidney's work for the boundary, beyond which I make few excursions.  From the authors which rose in the time of Elizabeth, a speech might be formed adequate to all the purposes of use and elegance.  If the language of theology were extracted from Hooker and the translation of the Bible; the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war, and navigation from Raleigh; the dialect of poetry and fiction from Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakespeare, few ideas would be lost to mankind, for want of English words, in which they might be expressed."

A Dictionary of the English Language: in which the words are deduced from their originals, explained in their different meanings, and authorised by the names of the writers in whose works they are found."

Dr. Samuel Johnson,    Preface to the Folio edition, 1755

No comments:

Post a Comment