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Media: NYTimes: Dr. Johnson's Revolution

Submitter: Karen Chung

Submitter Email:
Linguistic Field(s): Lexicography

Subject Language(s): English

Media Body: The New York Times Editorials/Op-Ed July 2, 2005

Dr. Johnson's Revolution
By Jack Lynch

...Johnson approached each entry with the same overarching question: What
does a word mean? You can answer this question many ways. You can turn to
Latin roots, consult a committee of authoritative scholars, or follow
logical principles about things like double negatives.

But Johnson's answer was simpler: a word means whatever the best writers
say it means. He was convinced that no one - no emperor, no king and
certainly no dictionary writer - had the authority to rule on meanings. Our
language is the common property of all who have used it, and meanings come
not from fiat but from precedent. ...

Karen Chung
Issue Number: 16.2072
Date Posted: July 02, 2005