Samuel Johnson, creator of the OED

Glad to see that this review of Henry Hitching’s Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary on Bookslut was changed to this.

Before it was changed, the first line contained the phrase “Samuel Johnson, creator of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Johnson was no such thing. Although the OED has used citations that appeared in Johnson’s dictionary, in no way are they the same work, nor is the OED a later version or edition of Johnson’s work. Johnson had no editorial role in the OED. He was dead.

Johnson died in 1784 and the proposal for the creation of what became the OED didn’t appear until 1857.

The original review repeatedly conflated Johnsons dictionary with the Oxford English Dictionary, making me wonder if the reviewer even read Hitching’s book.

Posted January 15, 2006

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