Johnson's Dictionary and bang, budge, fuss, gambler, shabby, and touchy

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Nov 8 15:55:09 UTC 2013

A correspondent on the list named below asks the question given
below.  If you can reply to the C18-L list, please do so and also
copy ADS-L.  Otherwise, I will pass on any replies.


>Reply-To:     18th Century Interdisciplinary Discussion <C18-L at>
>Subject: [C18-L] Johnson's Dictionary and bang, budge, fuss,
>gambler, shabby, and touchy
>Sender:       18th Century Interdisciplinary Discussion <C18-L at>
>I participate in an online trivia league, and yesterday I was asked
>a question about Johnson's Dictionary to which I didn't know the answer:
>"The words bang, budge, fuss, gambler, shabby and touchy did not
>appear in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language. Why not?"
>The answer was "Johnson didn't like them." Looking for more
>background on this, I found this British Library page on the
>Dictionary that explains:
>"He also decided that many words were not good enough for the
>dictionary - words such as bang, budge, fuss, gambler, shabby and
>touchy were all left out. Johnson was criticised for imposing his
>personality on to the book. However, his dictionary was enormously
>popular and highly respected for its epic sense of scholarship."
>This thorough-looking site on the history of English says much the same:
>"Johnson also deliberately omitted from his dictionary several words
>he disliked or considered vulgar (including bang, budge, fuss,
>gambler, shabby and touchy), but these useful words have clearly
>survived intact regardless of his opinions."
>Here's the thing, though. It's not true. ALL those words appear in
>the 1755 first edition of the Dictionary, although Johnson does
>stigmatize them with labels like "low word" or "cant". Clearly no
>one could write this who's actually looked up those words, and the
>similarity of the lists implies a common ancestor. Does anyone know
>where this notion might have come from?
>John Overholt
>Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson/
>Early Modern Books and Manuscripts
>Houghton Library
>Harvard University
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