The Founding Father of the Collective English Lexicon

by Danae Stafford

This is my second semester working on this project and my second reflection post. My first semester with the dictionary was very fulfilling, and I knew I wanted to keep up with it beyond those first sixteen weeks. I was very grateful to be able to return to the project, not only because I needed the credits but also because I missed interacting with these pages of Johnson’s. This semester, after proofreading the first week, I almost exclusively worked on XML editing for the 1773 edition, which was just published this month to the website! Most of the work I did had to do with adding little details, like personography IDs for authors and identifying tags for certain literary titles. In my final week, I got to work with lots of “s” words, like syllable, syllabick, and syllabical, which emphasized in my mind my love of the dictionary and its quirks. Why were these three words specifically included by Johnson, and not others? Sometimes it seems kind of redundant, and yet, there is charm to that redundancy. These months remind me of the human behind the pages – the founding father of the collective English lexicon.

I have found so much admiration for Samuel Johnson and his work through my own work with this dictionary and project altogether. I have also reignited my love of language and its inner workings and foundations. Language unites us and allows us to communicate the deepest truths of life to one another, and I believe Johnson recognized this in his efforts of making the dictionary a reality. Only somebody truly dedicated to language would take on an endeavor such as this. For me, furthering his legacy with this project becomes even more fruitful the longer I worked at it, making my time of multiple semesters plenty worthwhile.