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FiveBooks: Robert McCrum on the English language

A leading thinker recommends five books about their field of interest. This month, the topic is the English language, chosen by the journalist and novelist Robert McCrum

By Prospect   January 2011

Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) What I want to do in my choice of books is to describe the three stages of the evolution of the English language. The first is a British stage, the second is American and the third is a global one, in which English is being used internationally as a default language.

Samuel Johnson wrote one of the most influential dictionaries in the English language. And, amazingly, he did it all by himself apart from the assistance of a few hired hands.

He wrote some witty entries, defining “lexicographer” as “a writer of dictionaries, a harmless…

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