What is Johnsonese? Give Examples.

What is Johnsonese? Give Examples

The use
of bombastic words and expression by
Dr. Samuel Johnson and his followers is called Johnsonese.  The terms surely refers to the pedantic,
learned and sesquipedalian words such as phenomenon, diphtheria, intellectual,
latitudinarian, parricide, nuclei etc. and the long involved sentences such

1) “ The last of men was Dr. Johnson to have
abetted squandering the delicacy of integrity by nullifying the labours of talent.”

2) “He ranks from inanition into nonentity.”
(i.e. he was starved to death)

3) “to agitate the communicators” (i.e. to
ring the bell)

4) “A sanguinary nasal protuberance” (i.e.
a red nose)

5) Otto
Jespersen has quoted in his book entitled Growth
and Structure of the
English Language the following extract to
illustrate the effects of extreme Johnsonese.:

‘The proverbial oracles of our
parsimonious ancestors’ 

Macaulay has given some delightful samples of Johnsonese: 

            a) Mr. Thrale was “provoked by the dullness of tactiturnity that, in the midst of
such interlocutors, produced as narcotic torpor as could have been caused by a
death the most barren of all human faculties.”

            b) Sir Isaac Newton “is the developer of the skies in their embodied movements,
exterior twin appendages, handsome volutes to the human capital.”
(used to
produce a humorous effect by Charles Lamb)

Use of
Latin and Greek words in jocular or ironical speech: hylactism (barking), histrion
(actor), edacious (greedy), the genus Homo (mankind).

In the
19th century a most happy
reaction set in against Johnsonese
. Charles Lamb favoured simple words and
natural expressions as against pedantic and learned expression. But still now
Johnosonese survives especially with the half-educated and the showy scholars. Jesperson
quotes the following story from a newspaper to illustrate the lingering disease
(i.e. Johnsonese)

“The young lady home from school
was explaining: ‘Take an egg’, she said, and make a peforation in the base and
a corresponding one in the apex. Then apply the lips to the aperture, and by
forcibly inhaling the breath the shell is entirely discharged of its contents.’
An old lady who was listening exclaimed: “It beats all how folks do things
nowadays. When I was a gal they made a whole in each end a sucked.”

worst thing that can be said against the so-called pedantic sesquipedalian
words and expressions is their undemocratic character. A great many of these
words will never be used and understood by the majority. 

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