Sunday, December 13, 2015

Selections from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: “W”

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Demotic American Literature, Assistant Backgammon Club Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Wounded Wombat; the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq for penmarqable productions™ (pencils, inks, colors and layout by roy dismas; lettering by eddie el greco).

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Is a letter of which the form is not to be found in the alphabets of the learned languages; though it is not improbable that by our w is expressed the sound of the Roman v, and the Eolick f. Both the form and sound are excluded from the languages derived from the Latin.


To Waddle.

  To shake, in walking from side to side; to deviate in motion from a right line.

The strutting petticoat smooths and levels all distinctions; while I cannot but be troubled to see so many well-shaped, innocent virgins bloated up, and waddling up and down like big-bellied women.  Spectator, № 127.


To Wade.  To walk through the waters; to pass water without swimming.

We'll wade to the market-place in Frenchmen's blood.  Sha.


Wafer.  The bread given in the eucharist by the Romanists.

That the same body of Christ should be in a thousand places at once; that the whole body should lie hid in a little thin wafer; yet so, that the members thereof should not one run into another, but continue distinct, and have an order agreeable to a man's body, it doth exceed reason.  Hall. 


Waggish.  Knavishly merry; merrily mischievous; frolicksome.

A company of waggish boys watching of frogs at the side of a pond, still as any of them put up their heads, they would be pelting them down with stones. Children, says one of the frogs, you never consider, that though this may be play to you, 'tis death to us.  L'Estrange.


To Wail.  To grieve audibly; to express sorrow.

I will lwail and howl.  Mic. i. 8.



1. A liquor made of apples, sugar, and ale, anciently much used by English goodfellows.

2. A drunken bout.

The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering upspring reels.  Shakesp.



  Sir Isaac Newton defines water, when pure, to be a very fluid salt, volatile, and void of all savour or taste; and it seems to consist of small, smooth, hard, porous, spherical particles, of equal diameters, and of equal specifick gravities, as Dr. Cheyne observes; and also that there are between them spaces so large, and ranged in such a manner, as to be pervious on all sides. Their smoothness accounts for their sliding easily over one another's surfaces: their sphericity keeps them also from touching one another in more points than one; and by both these their frictions in sliding over one another, is rendered the least possible. Their hardness accounts for the incompressibility of water, when it is free from the intermixture of air. The porosity of water is so very great, that there is at least forty times as much space as matter in it; for water is nineteen times specifically lighter than gold, and consequently rarer in the same proportion.  Quincy.


Wave.  Water raised above the level of the surface; billow; water driven into inequalities.

The wave behind impels the wave before.  Pope.


Weapon.  Instrument of offence; something with which one is armed to hurt another.

            Touch me with noble anger;

O let not women’s weapons, water drops,

Stain my man's cheeks.  Shakespeare's King Lear.


Weasel.  A small animal that eats corn and kills mice.

A weasel once made shift to slink
In at a corn loft through a chink. Pope.


Wench.  A young woman in contempt; a strumpet.

Men have these ambitious fancies,
And wanton wenches read romances.  Prior. 


Whig.  The name of a faction.

Whoever has a true value for church and state, should avoid the extremes of whig for the sake of the former, and the extremes of tory on the account of the latter.  Swift. 


Witless.  Wanting understanding.

Why then should witless man so much misween

That nothing is but that which he hath seen?  Fairy Queen. 


Woman.  The female of the human race.

That man who hath a tongue is no man,

If with his tongue he cannot win a womanShakespeare. 


World.  The earth; the terraqueous globe.

He the world

Built on circumfluous waters.  Milton's Paradise Lost. 


Wort.  New beer either unfermented, or in the act of fermentation.

If in the wort of beer, while it worketh, before it be tunned, the burrage be often changed with fresh, it will make a sovereign drink for melancholy.  Bacon's Natural History. 


To Writhe.  To twist with violence.

Then Satan first knew pain,
And writh'd him to and fro convolv'd.  Milton's Parad. Lost.


(Our illustrated adaptation of Boswell’s Life of Johnson will resume next week. Classix Comix is sponsored by Manhattan’s favorite watering hole – Bob’s Bowery Bar©: “Finding yourself in need of that extra little bit of holiday cheer during this festive season? Why not stop into Bob’s Bowery Bar – conveniently located on the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery –and treat yourself to a steaming great tankard of ‘Bob’s Hearty Seaman’s Grog’,

a mere buck a pint all this month – sorry, only four per customer, but believe me, four will do the job, and plenty!” – Horace P. Sternwall, your host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Horace P. Sternwall's Tales of the Seven Seas, Wednesdays at 9pm, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.


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