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Samuel Johnson, orator extraordinaire or pompous windbag?

  1. Jul 7, 2012 #1
    In the 18th century it was apparently the syle to be as verbose as possible. More so than later and previous eras. Why? Dr Johnson, writer of the first english dictionary was (perhaps) the preeminent example of this style. I read over his preface to shakespeare and noticed that entire paragraphs can be summed up in 10 word sentences. For example, he makes a point and then consequently illustrates that point in analogy --but then he provides another analogy, and another and another etc etc, ...all while using these 10 syllable words that just werent in the vernacular of that era (not least today). This is what makes me suspect he was a bit of a pompous windbag. I hit on this after watching this black adder portrayal of him that was hilarious and then later i thought, well i wonder how true this is? What do you guys think?
    (heres the black adder clip, it really makes the point well i think)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
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  3. Jul 7, 2012 #2


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    Re: Samuel Johnsone2C orator extraordinaire or pompous windbag?

    I read your thread title as "Samuel Jackson".:redface:

    "SAY WHAT ONE MORE GODD---N TIME!!!, M-F-!!!" I wouldn't want to tell him he's verbose, would you? :rofl:
  4. Jul 8, 2012 #3


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    Johnson - pompous windbag

    But not because he was the author of an English dictionary.

    Daniel Webster wrote the American English dictionary and suffered no such afflictions.

    In fact, when fellow Whigs saw William Henry Harrison's draft of his inauguration speech, a speech inspired by his boyhood memories of Plutarch and Roman history, they were so horrified by its length and aimlessness that they enlisted Webster (he who wisely struck so many 'u's from the American English language) to go to work striking out the worst of Harrison's inauguration speech. After hours of work, an exhausted Webster reported at a dinner party that he had "just killed seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts".

    In spite of Webster's efforts, Harrison's inauguration speech still holds the record for the longest in American history at one hour and 45 minutes - and he delivered in his speech in the middle of a snow storm, no less (I wonder how many lives Webster saved that day?). Yet Harrison also holds the record for the shortest Presidency in American history at 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes.

    Somewhere in there is surely a message about the dangers of verbosity.
  5. Jul 8, 2012 #4


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    I would be interested to see a list of the "10 syllable words" you found in Johnson's preface to Shakespeare. I don't expect it will be a long list.
  6. Jul 9, 2012 #5


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    Nice link. Dr. House never looks better than when wearing rouge and a curly wig.
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