A Dictionary of the English Language
                        A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson
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Towel

View Scan · View Transcription · from page 2078

View Scan · View Transcription · from page 2078

Tówel. n.s. [touaille, French; touaglio, Italian.] A cloath on which the hands are wiped.

His arm must be kept up with a napkin or towel. Wiseman.

Th' attendants water for their hands supply,
And having wash'd, with silken towels dry.
Dryden's Æn.

Sources: Dryden, John (788) · Wiseman, Richard (68)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Towel." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: May 25, 2012. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=9558.


  1. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

    More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

    Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch-hiking slang, as in ‘Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.’ (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979)

  2. Brandi on May 25th, 2012 at 4:10 am
  3. ^ awesome

  4. Amanda on May 25th, 2012 at 9:48 am

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