A Semester With Johnson: The Final Reflection

by Kayla Aranda

Kayla Aranda, an English major at the University of Central Florida, wrote this reflection for an internship during the Fall 2021 semester.

Johnson In the Modern World

Now, it is more important than ever to completely digitize Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary. In a world where most people turn to googling a words definition or searching the internet for the perfect synonym, it is time to give the world a more easily accessible version of the Dictionary, giving people a chance to learn more about Johnson. Especially when thinking about how many other dictionaries, such as Webster’s and the Oxford Dictionary, have been digitized and put online.

Though the Dictionary would be entering into a media that sometimes feel over saturated with dictionaries and tools to search words, Johnson’s Dictionary offers something that is unique from other dictionaries, even back when it was originally released. Along with giving definitions of more historic words, Johnson also gives multiple examples of how each word is used, often known as a “quotation.” Johnson included upwards of 100,000 quotations in the Dictionary, which played a key role in the Dictionary’s success. Aside from this, I think that the digitization of Johnson’s dictionary could act as a great learning and teaching tool for both secondary and professional settings.

My Experience With Johnson

I was lucky enough to be able take part in the Samuel Johnson Dictionary Project this semester as a proofreader for the project. I initially heard of the project through my academic advisor during the summer semester. What had caught my attention at first was that the internship gave me the opportunity to be apart of something that seemed to make a difference, I was getting the chance to have hands on experience with a project that was contributing to the world of English and the Humanities. At first, I was nervous to partake in the project, because I was worried about being under qualifeied. However, the project is a great learning experience for people who hope to get involved in academic research opportunities.

The project offered many ways to get involved, but I decided on working as a proofreader. Being a Creative Writing Major, I thought being able to proofread would give me an opportunity to build my skills as well as getting a chance to get exposure to Johnson’s Dictionary. Though the task of proofreading doesn’t appear to be the most significant task, it is actually very important to the project. One of the most important goals of this project is to make sure that the digitized version of the Dictionary is as authentic and reliable as other popular databases. By proofreading, I act as the final “mic check” if you will. I make sure that all of our “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” are dotted.

Throughout the Fall semester was able to proofread multiple folios and entries, allowing me to become fully immersed in the Dictionary. Being able to read through the Dictionary on a weekly basis, I was able to learn new definitions of words that I use in everyday conversation, while also being able to learn new words and new meanings for old words. At the beginning of the semester I was given a set of words that I needed to work through and finish by the end of the semester. I worked through them, making sure that the words and their definitions and quotations that were uploaded onto Johnson’s website matched those located in the scanned image of Johnson’s physical Dictionary.

By participating in the Samuel Johnson Dictionary project this semester I have been able to develop and gain many skills. I have been able to become familiar with a professional database, which was used to organize and search Johnson’s entries. In my future career endeavours, I will be able to apply these technical skills to other databases. Similarly, I was able to work on a shared data spreadsheet, which has become a sought after skill in the job market in a digital age. I have also been able to gain experience in work specific to major area of study.

What’s Next?

In the coming semesters, more groups of students will become a part of the project in the chosen tasks. Since there are multiple editions, it will take a while to get them all fully digitized. As for me, I hope to continue working with the project until my graduation. I have already signed up to continue working in the Spring semester. I would be happy to continue working as a proofreader, but I am excited to take on a new task in the project.