n. a person of great and varied learning
n. one who may be depended upon
n. a dispute about or concerning words
v. to speak of with disparagement or contempt
In 1746 Samuel Johnson set out to write a dictionary of the English language. He proposed to finish it in three years.
Dr. Adams found him one day busy at his Dictionary, when the following dialogue ensued.
ADAMS. This is a great work, Sir. How are you to get all the etymologies? JOHNSON. Why, Sir, here is a shelf with Junius, and Skinner, and others; and there is a Welch gentleman who has published a collection of Welch proverbs, who will help me with the Welch. ADAMS. But, Sir, how can you do this in three years? JOHNSON. Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in three years. ADAMS. But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their Dictionary. JOHNSON. Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see: forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.
(From Boswell.) (In the end it took him seven years.)