There’s plenty to feed an addiction to dictionaries

The definition is a book containing a selection of the words of a language with explanations of their meanings, pronunciations, and etymologies ...; lexicon; glossary”.

Very interesting.  But then you have to know what etymology, lexicon and glossary mean which, fortunately, I do.
If you look them up, you end up back with the dictionary, and Latin and Greek.

“Dictum” is Latin for a word – dictation, take down these words.

The word “gloss” comes from the Greek word for “tongue”. “Lexicon” is Greek for a word-book. “Etymology” comes through Latin from the Greek and means the derivation of a word.

Through English history, there have been literally scores of dictionaries, most of them created in the 18th and 19th centuries when scholars seem to have been obsessed with telling the reading classes where words come from.

The most famous of these was Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English lexicographer and public speaker. His Dictionary published in 1755 became the Bible for students and teachers for the next 200 years.

In 1808, John Jamieson published his Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language.  

If you know the popular song D’ye ken John Peel? you might find this of interest.

The only word that strikes a chord with me is the word “glamorous”. The word “glam” is found in Gaelic, Icelandic and even Latin (clamor) and means loud or noisy. As in fashion, I suppose.

In the 1800s, there were many weird dictionaries produced.

John Hotten published his Slang Dictionary (1887) which included many obscure words, some of them now not printable. Like by-blow for an illegitimate child. What was he thinking? And why a dictionary of street language?
Then there was Edward Lloyd’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary (1895) which included words from Chaucer that he felt people should still know and use, even though after 400 years they had fallen into obscurity.

Thomas Darlington published The Folk-Speech of South Cheshire in 1887 for those who felt they needed to know this. Nobody did.

John Phin felt the need to explain Shakespeare’s belief in fairies in his Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England (1879). I don’t think they even had magic mushrooms back then. A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
But William Toone must take the cake. In 1831 he published his book about words nobody uses any more.

His Dictionary of Obsolete and Uncommon Words probably did not cause a rush to the bookshops, but scholars no doubt appreciated his hard work in uncovering the useless.

Feminists may or may not be familiar with the totally un-PC book by William Grimshaw.  Ladies’ Lexicon and Parlour Companion (1854) will of course have omitted such vulgar male terms as “breeches” and “snuff”.

Henry Sweet (1845-1912) was a London-born wordsmith. The most influential comparative philologist (lover of language) of his day he became G.B. Shaw’s inspiration for Henry Higgins in the play Pygmalion.

Sweet helped pioneer the academic field of phonetics, and didn’t I sweat over Sweet back at Sarfamptern Universi’y!  Aauw, wosern’ id luvverly?

Coming to the present day, we have the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Holy Bible of dictionaries was begun in 1879 by Sir James Murray who was its editor until his death in 1915.
The OED is considered the definitive authority on the English language and gives you not only the meaning of every word, but also its derivation and every alternative usage.

In other words, you learn both vocabulary and grammar. Every writer and speaker should have this to hand beside the computer. Never mind Google; this is your primary word-source.

Americans rely on another dictionary, compiled by Noah Webster. Their vocabulary and grammar have diverged significantly from standard Oxford English and good luck to them. But colour has a ‘u’ in it; recognise and organise are spelt with an s; and I would never use Spellcheck on my computer because it can’t spell correct English.

Finally, what about us Aussies? Well, we have our Macquarie.

“The Macquarie Dictionary is to Australians what the Oxford is to the British and the Webster’s is to the Americans. It is our national dictionary,” writes Kevin Weldon in his preface to the 2011 signature edition which I won in a Literary Review competition.