Johnson’s Dictionary helps us understand history

by Jared Dennis Freedline

Jared Dennis Freedline, a History major at the University of Central Florida, wrote this reflection for an independent study course during the Fall 2021 semester.

During my work on the Samuel Johnson Dictionary Project, I learned about Samuel Johnson work on the 1755 version of his dictionary. Also, I learned how words were used back in the 1750s and how people understood those words. This course help further my learning and my understanding of the English language and how it evolved to what it is today. As a History Major, the Samuel Johnson Dictionary Project furthered my love for history about the English language. Also, this paper is to show my work and passion for the Samuel Johnson Dictionary Project throughout the Fall 2021 semester at UCF.

Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, in England. Samuel Johnson’s father was a book shop owner in England and Samuel work in the shop while attending school. While working in the book shop, he began to find a passion for the English language. Before publishing the 1755 version of his dictionary, he was a poet and author of many books and poems. Some of his works besides his dictionary are The Vanity of Human Wishes, The Idler, and many more novels and poems. What makes Samuel Johnson important is that he wrote a complete dictionary of the English language by himself while traditional it took a committee of people to create an complete version of the English dictionary. When he publishes his dictionary, he challenges the committees of people that had a hold on the creation of the English dictionaries during the late 1700s. The Samuel Johnson Dictionary is worth putting online because his dictionary shows the passion and commitment, he had to produce a complete English Dictionary by himself while it took a group of people before him.

For my contribution to this project, I was assigned to proofread the entries made on the online database for Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary online. I have completed over 450 words during the Fall 2021 semester. The sections that I have completed during this timeframe was the section from the word Cloth-Comedian and the section from Hoarseness-Hogsmushrooms. These sections of the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary have many words that had their meaning change throughout the history of the English language from the creation of the dictionary to this date in time. My contributions benefit the project by checking that the online version match the uploaded real copy of the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary so that people now and in the future can appreciate and understand how words evolved and what was their original meaning of these words from the 1750s. The first example of how words change throughout history is the world “Club”. The common meaning of this word is that a “Club” is a place were people would gather for dancing or drinking. Back in the 1750s, “Club” meant an heavy stick; a staff intended for offence. Two completely different meaning for the same word that change over hundreds of years using the English language. Another word that change over time was the word “Colour”, while the meaning of the word hasn’t changed that much, we see a split in the spelling of this word. With this split, the new spelling for the word “Colour” became “Color” in the USA. This slight change of the spelling of the word shows the evolution of words by the changes from their meaning and the way that they are spelled. An example of how words would maintain their meaning over time is the word “Coin”. The meaning of the word “Coin” is money stamped with a legal impression. This meaning hasn’t changed from the 1750s-today. While working on this project, I saw all the stages of the evolution of words in the English language throughout hundreds of years from the published of the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary to today. I feel that these words in the English language help shows the culture of the people during the time period because while our culture changes throughout history, our changing culture impacts how the meaning of words would change or stay the same throughout the history of the English language.

With my work on this project, I fill that this as benefit me by understanding the meaning of these words and how they change over time. With this information that I gain from this project, I can better use the words in papers and assignments that would fit better than other words. This project helped expand my vocabulary with words that I have never heard before like “Hogsmushrooms.” With this newly understood knowledge, I feel that I am better suited to understand American history during the 1750s because now I know what type of words that were used during this timeframe that would help influence English speaking people around the world. Also, I feel that this project allowed me to see what people do with archiving items and putting them online. Now I understand the work that has to be put in so that the information is correct and accurate so that the public receives the right information about the item. I now understand that it takes a team of people to reproduce a item online for the public to search up. For this project it takes many people on proofreading and entering the data so that the whole Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary can be online for the whole world to see. This is how my work on the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary has furthered my ideas in history and understanding the basics of archiving.

I have really enjoyed working on this project this semester because the Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary helps understand what the original meaning of some words in the English language were and how these words help expand the English culture around the world. I really enjoyed talking about the work I did with my group and how all of us furthered this project together. I loved this work so much that I am going to work on this project for the Spring 2022 and the Summer 2022 semester right before I graduate from UCF.