Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?

Jack Lynch is an expert in 18th-Century British literature

What happens when a 21st Century English teacher meets an 18th Century English dictionary?

When Lynch, an expert on 18th-Century British literature, edited Johnson’s celebrated and nearly three-centuries-old A Dictionary of the English Language, the end result was the trimmer, 21st -Century Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary. In the new dictionary (Walker & Company, 2003) Lynch kept only 3,100 of the original 42,773 entries. For his version, Lynch carefully selected words that “show up in famous literary quotations as well as those that have changed meaning over time, like pencil, which meant ‘paintbrush.’”

Johnson’s original dictionary was considered the definitive dictionary for more than 150 years, used by the greats such as the Bronte sisters, Wordsworth and Keats. "Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary is kind of a founding document, like the Declaration of Independence,” says Lynch. “If you want insight into the United States, you read the Declaration of Independence. If you want to know about the English language, you read Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.”

Lynch was Rutgers-Newark’s first Hosford Scholar, chosen on the basis of his scholarship, teaching and service. In 2008 he published Deception and Detection in 18th Century Britain, which recounts what Lynch describes as “famous cases of forgery, fakery and fraud.”

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