Sunday, 18 November 2012

You can call me Samuel Johnson!

Samuel Johnson

For those of you who haven't, um ... seen Blackadder, Samuel Johnson is the guy who wrote the first proper dictionary.

His book was called A Dictionary of the English Language and it took him nearly nine years to complete. Obviously it was an amazing achievement but I didn't quite comprehend quite how amazing it was until recently.

Wild Man wants to know what words mean.

All the time.

It's driving me crazy.

The problem - apart from the endless questions and stream of consciousness conversation that is part of life with a three year old - is that it is hard to define words, especially if you have to assume the person also doesn't know the words that might help you understand the first word.

For example, the other day Wild Man asked me what a metre is.

The easy answer is that it is 100 centimetres.

But Wild Man doesn't know what centimetres are either! And so suddenly explaining what a metre is becomes a serious challenge.*

And that's why I have this sudden, overwhelming admiration for Samuel Johnson.

It is seriously hard to define a word, let alone a whole dictionary full of them.

* In case you're wondering a metre is one very big step by Mummy.

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