Monday would have been the 308th birthday of Dr. Samuel Johnson, author of The Dictionary of the English Language and the subject of today’s Google Doodle. Johnson’s contributions to the English language are enormous — his 1755 dictionary was the first truly comprehensive dictionary of the language, and remained the gold standard until The Oxford English Dictionary of 1884 — but one of the best reasons to remember him is that the dude was hilarious.
Samuel Johnson was so funny that some of the entries in his dictionary are still genuinely entertaining. Samuel Johnson was so funny that his friend Boswell spent 22 years basically just following him around, filling 18 volumes with his various bon mots to create The Life of Samuel Johnson. Samuel Johnson was so funny that the only person in the English language who’s quoted more often is Shakespeare.
So with that in mind, in celebration of Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday, here are some of his best quotes:
“Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.” —The Dictionary of the English Language
“To worm: To deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running mad.” —The Dictionary of the English Language
“Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.” —The Dictionary of the English Language
“Patron: One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.” —The Dictionary of the English Language
“It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.” —The Idler
“I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good.” —The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
“At the tea table he had considerable demands upon his favorite beverage, and I remember when Sir Joshua Reynolds at my house reminded him that he had drank eleven cups, he replied — ‘Sir, I did not count your glasses of wine, why should you number up my cups of tea?’” —The Life of Samuel Johnson, Vol. 2
“It can scarcely be candid not to make a previous declaration, that he is to expect little justice from the author of this extract, a hardened and shameless tea-drinker.” —A Journal of Eight Days’ Journey
Happy birthday, Dr. Johnson.