That the Royal Mint is to issue a special 50p coin to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary reminded me that he wasn’t really the first to think of this idea.
In researching my family history, I discovered that my seven times great-grandfather came up with a similar notion in the 1730s. He spent over ten years noting all the words of the English language of the time and assigning them definitions, publishing some three years before Johnson had started his great work.
The fact that it is Johnson who is remembered and revered and not my ancestor is down to two things. One, my long past grandad didn’t actually know that many words. His vocabulary mainly consisted of terms to do with getting coal out of the ground, death, disease and producing lots of children.
But second, and more importantly — the killer USP really — Johnson put the words in his dictionary in alphabetical order.
If only x7-grandad had thought a bit deeper, eh? If only.