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Samuel Johnson's Insults    edited by Jack Lynch order for
Samuel Johnson's Insults
by Jack Lynch
Order:  USA  Can
Levenger, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is one of those little books that make great stocking stuffers - for anyone who enjoys the language of insults, that is. The book opens aptly with the Samuel Johnson quote, 'It is surely better a man should be abused than be forgotten.' The book's editor tells us that in the 18th century - an 'age of insults' served up with great zest - Johnson was 'second to none'.

This little book offers a dictionary of insulting terms, from the unfamilliar abbey-lubber to the still used zany. Explanations of terms include their origins, with the occasional quotation of an insult that uses them. At the back is an Index of Selected Personages mentioned within the book. Here are some of the words I liked most - bellygod, dandiprat, fatwitted, jobbernowl, pickleherring, slubberdegullion, and stultiloquence. And here are a couple of insults (though I wish the book had included more). On the death of a Jamaican slaveholder, Johnson said 'He will not, whither he has now gone, find much difference, I believe, either in the climate or the company.' And to a friend complaining of illness, 'Do not be like the spider, man; and spin conversation thus incessantly out of thy own bowels.'

In an age when the best today's youth seems able to come up with is 'That sucks', this little book can enlarge the imagination. Give it to anyone whose insults would benefit from better articulation, to afficianados of the absurd, or to those who enjoy edged wit.

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