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25 Things You Might Not Know About Boy Meets World

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1. Cory was originally supposed to have two best friends.

In the first three episodes of the show, Cory has a second friend, in addition to Shawn. The show was originally going to feature Cory’s friends as a group, rather than a duo, so the showrunners kept rotating in new friends. But the characters didn’t stick. The cast even started calling the cafeteria chair that those characters sat in the “death chair” because the actors would never return. Finally, in the season one episode "Cory’s Alternative Friends,” Topanga was introduced and the notion of another best friend was lost.

2. Shawn once said he had a sister who was never mentioned again.

In the “Cory’s Alternative Friends” episode, Shawn telephones his sister Stacy. In later episodes, Shawn doesn’t have a sister. Why? It has to do with the aforementioned plan for Corey to have two best friends. While filming the episode, the actor who was going to play one of those friends was fired. Rider Strong, who played Shawn, was given all of his lines at the last minute. In the original script, Stacy wasn’t Shawn’s sister. So, she never shows up in the show again.

3. Mr. Turner disappeared.

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What’s with all the disappearing Boy Meets World characters? Mr. Turner played a vital role in the high school years of the show. Shawn even lives with him for a time. But in the fourth season episode “Cult Fiction,” Mr. Turner gets into a life-threatening motorcycle accident. He never appears on the show again and is rarely mentioned. In the next season, during the graduation episode, Minkus (who has also been MIA since season one) mentions Mr. Turner, saying that they had just been on “the other side of the school.” Mysterious.

Strong claimed that the twentysomething Mr. Turner was written into the show because Friends was popular at the time. But he didn’t quite fit into the show. Boy Meets World creator Michael Jacobs has said that we’ll finally find out what happened to Mr. Turner on Girl Meets World.

4. Members of Topanga’s family also disappeared.

Topanga’s family tree is also all over the place. Like Stacy, Topanga’s older sister, Nebula, is a one-episode wonder. She appears in the season one episode “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not,” but is never mentioned again. Topanga’s parents were played by five different actors over the course of the show: Peter Tork, Michael McKean, and Mark Harelik played her father, and her mother was played by both Annette O’Toole and Marcia Cross.

5. Minkus’s name was changed for a reason.

The writers changed Lee Norris' character's name to “Stuart Minkus” after it was discovered that there was an actual Stuart Lempke (the character's original surname) living in Philadelphia, which is where the show takes place.

6. Danielle Fishel replaced another Topanga.

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Topanga was originally played by a different actress who ultimately didn’t work out for the part. On Fishel’s first day, she made the character very upbeat and peppy—but after rehearsal, Jacobs waited until everyone went home and had a meeting with her in which he told her that he wanted Topanga to be more of a slow, calm character, and they went through the script line-by-line. Fishel was terrified that she’d lost the part like the actress who played Topanga before her, so she spent all night practicing the part. After the next day’s run-through, Jacobs stood up and gave her a standing ovation. 

7. Another character that was replaced: Morgan Matthews.

In the first two seasons, Lily Nicksay plays the youngest member of the Matthews family, Morgan. Then, a few episodes into season three, Lindsay Ridgeway takes over the role of Morgan. It was never explained why Nicksay was replaced. In the third season, Corey says, “Morgan, long time no see.” She responds, “Yeah, that was the longest time out I’ve ever had!” Nicksay has made a few reunion appearances with the cast and has said she’d be interested in appearing on Girl Meets World.

8. Topanga was named after Topanga Canyon.

It was taking a while to come up with Topanga’s name and it ended up becoming a last-minute decision. According to Fishel, “Michael Jacobs says he was driving down the highway when production called and said, ‘We need a name for this character!’ He happened to be driving past Topanga Canyon, so he said, ‘Topanga.’ He says that if they had called him two miles later, I would’ve been named Canoga, which is the next exit.”

9. The child actors were in school together.

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Just like the show, the set itself revolved around a classroom. During the show’s early years, Ben Savage (Cory), Will Friedle (Eric), Fishel, and Strong were all still in school. Fishel later explained, “When we started the show, we had little sectioned off areas for each one of us to try to focus and work with our own individual teachers, but it always ended up being more like a regular school classroom with all of us chiming in and learning little bits of what everyone else was learning.”

10. Strong hated his Shawn haircut.

Though Shawn’s haircut was beloved by the fans, Strong didn’t feel the same way. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to change it. “I hated my hair. I came to the audition with that hairstyle, got the part, and the director Michael Jacobs never let me cut it from there on out,” Rider Strong said. “A bunch of girls at a sleepover told me to wear my hair like that—parted down the center—and I was 12, so I listened. It was my version of Christian Slater. But my hair is wavy and they would straighten it on the show and it would take forever. I wanted to cut my hair so bad, but the only time I got to was when we found out the show was going to be canceled.”

11. Strong stole Shawn’s famous leather jacket.

When the show ended, Strong made off with a nice souvenir. “Disney wouldn't let us take anything, but I had a leather jacket that I had bought on my own, and I swapped it," he said. Unfortunately, someone later stole the jacket from his car in Brooklyn. He wasn’t the only rebel in the cast—Ben Savage has admitted to stealing a pair of shoes from the show as well.

12. Scenes between Eric and Shawn were limited for a reason.

Friedle and Strong remain best friends to this day. Their undeniable chemistry made for some hard-to-shoot scenes. In a recent reunion, Friedle admitted, “They never let Rider and I do scenes together because we would look at each other and start laughing, so I think over seven years, we had, like, five scenes together.” 

13. The episode “And Then There Was Shawn” was a cast favorite.

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Both Friedle and Strong have pointed to the season five episode as a favorite. The 1998 episode was inspired by '90s horror movies like Scream. The episode co-starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Friedle in real life. Her character’s name, by the way, was Jennifer Love Fefferman. It’s no wonder the cast “could barely get through the scenes,” as Friedle put it. “We were laughing so hard.”

14. The characters go to John Adams High School, a possible reference to William Daniels.

Though it hasn’t been confirmed, most Boy Meets World fans believe that John Adams High School is a nod to Daniels’s career. He played John Adams in the musical and film version of 1776. Another reference to his career: Mr. Feeny calls The Graduate a “great film.” Daniels played Mr. Braddock in the movie.

15. Daniels did have a Feeny-esque vibe on set.

He didn’t exactly mentor the kids, as fans might hope. The child actors were definitely intrigued by him, though. They originally thought he was British because he came across as very proper. “There wasn’t a whole lot of socializing off set, but we revered the character and the man,” said Savage. “When he’d come on set, we’d talk, we’d listen, and we’d absorb, and then he would vanish, like some sort of magical person that just pops into your life. He was like a mystic. He always taught us things, and there was so much to absorb from him.” 

16. The show skips some grades.

Though the show definitely leaps ahead in time, it’s hard to tell when those leaps occur. In season one, Cory, Shawn, and Topanga are in sixth grade. In the season two premiere, the characters are officially seventh graders and enter high school. Then, in the season four episode “I Ain’t Gonna Spray Lettuce No More,” the characters are referred to as 11th graders. Season five represents their senior year and they enter college in season six. Somewhere in there, a couple grades were lost.

17. Strong wanted to quit the show to go to college.

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He approached the showrunners about quitting to focus on his studies, but Jacobs convinced him that it was possible to do the show while attending college. Strong took all morning classes and then went to work. He even had a dorm room, as the school required, though he didn’t stay there every night. In 2004, four years after the show ended, Strong graduated with an English degree from Columbia University. The academic life suited him—he later got an MFA from Bennington College in 2009.

18. Maitland Ward didn’t audition.

Ward had actually auditioned for another of Michael Jacobs’s shows, Zoe, Duncan, Jack, and Jane. He really liked her, but she didn’t end up getting cast. Instead, he later called her to take the role of Eric and Jack’s roommate (and crush), Rachel. 

19. Many young future stars appeared on the show.

Jennifer Love Hewitt wasn’t the only star to make a guest appearance on Boy Meets World. Future Parks and Recreation star Adam Scott played school bully Griff Hawkins on the second season. Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini spent a few episodes almost breaking up Cory and Topanga. In 1995, the same year that Clueless came out, Brittany Murphy played Trini for two episodes. A couple of future Buffy stars also appeared on the show: Charisma Carpenter and Julie Benz.

Perhaps the most surprising Boy Meets World guest star is Blake Sennett, who would go on to be the lead guitarist for the band Rilo Kiley and frontman of The Elected. During his child acting days, Sennett went by the name Blake Soper. Like Scott, he played a school bully: Joseph “Joey the Rat” Epstein. His first appearance was in season two and he popped up periodically until the episode “Graduation” in season five.

20. Willie Garson played three different characters.

Another famous guest star: Willie Garson, a.k.a. Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City. In two first season episodes, Garson can be seen as the assistant manager of the Market Giant supermarket, where Cory’s father works. He appears again a few years later as Mervyn, who applies for a job at the Matthews’ store. Then, in season seven, he’s the minister who marries Cory and Topanga.

21. Jacob’s son plays Joshua Matthews.

Joshua Matthews is the younger brother of Cory and Eric who was born during the sixth season. The part was played by various babies until the season finale, when Daniel Jacobs, son of creator Michael Jacobs, played him. Interestingly, Daniel had already made a cameo that season as a different character. He wasn’t originally supposed to be in the episode, but the child actor that they had cast was being too chatty when he was supposed to be silent during a scene. So, Michael Jacobs called his wife, who promptly brought in Daniel to play the part. 

22. ABC ran an Internet poll asking whether Cory and Topanga should get married.

Jacobs wanted the iconic couple to marry before the show ended. ABC disagreed with the decision. The network executives thought that the characters, who were 20 years old, were far too young to get married. It was actually Jacobs who suggested the Internet poll. The audience wanted to see their favorite couple marry, and they did midway through the last season.

23. The tears in the finale were genuine.

The last scene in the classroom with Mr. Feeny was only filmed once. Strong explained, "We did that last scene in one take because we were such a wreck.” Ben Savage has said that the last scene was his favorite memory of the show. He described, “When they said, ‘Cut!’ on that final take, it was almost like someone was saying, ‘Say goodbye to your childhood.’”

24. The final scene is the only scene in the show showing Fishel’s tattoo.

Because the scene was only filmed once, the crew had four cameras set up to capture all the action. Midway through the scene, a writer asked Michael Jacobs, “What’s on [Danielle’s] neck?” He responded, “Chinese letters.” The writer asked, “Did you ever know they were there before?” Michael responded, “Hair has never given her pigtails before.” Those pigtails revealed a tattoo on Danielle’s neck, which is visible if you look closely. 

25. Many of the characters have returned for the spinoff, Girl Meets World.

Jacobs has said, “Whoever wants to be part of this show will be and whoever wants to move on will.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Candyman
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Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a Chicago graduate student with a deep fascination with urban legends, which she and her friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) are using as the basis for a thesis project. After they stumble across the local legend of Candyman, a well-to-do black artist who fell in love with a white woman in the late 1800s and was murdered for it, Helen wants to learn more. When she’s told that Candyman still haunts Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project, and that his spirit can be summoned by repeating his name into a mirror five times, Helen does just that … and all hell breaks loose.

What began as a low-budget indie film has morphed into a contemporary classic of the horror genre, and essential Halloween viewing. In 1992, English filmmaker Bernard Rose—who got his start working as a gopher on The Muppet Show—turned Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden” into Candyman, which was released in theaters 25 years ago today. In honor of the film’s anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about Candyman.

1. EDDIE MURPHY WAS CONSIDERED FOR THE LEAD.

Though the role of Candyman turned Tony Todd into a horror icon, he wasn’t the only actor in consideration for the film’s title role: Eddie Murphy was also reportedly a contender for the part. Though it’s unclear exactly why he wasn’t cast, sources have reported that it had to do with everything from his height (at 5 feet 9 inches, he wouldn’t seem nearly as intimidating as the 6-foot-5 Todd) to his salary demands.

2. AN UNEXPECTED PREGNANCY LANDED VIRGINIA MADSEN THE LEAD.

Virginia Madsen stars in 'Candyman'
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When asked by HorrorNewsNetwork about how she got the role of Helen in Candyman, Virginia Madsen shared that it was almost by accident: She was supposed to play Bernie, Helen’s friend and classmate, the role that eventually went to Kasi Lemmons.

“I was actually very good friends with Bernard [Rose] and his wife Alexandra,” Madsen said. “She is a wonderful actress, who actually brought Clive Barker’s short story ‘The Forbidden’ to her husband. She thought this would be a great film, and he could direct her. She was supposed to be Helen. I was going to play [Kasi Lemmons'] part, until they made the character African American. Then I was out.

“Right before shooting, Alexandra found out she was pregnant. It was great for me, but it was so sad for her because this was her role; she found this story and really wanted it. So when I was asked to step in I felt like ‘I can’t take my friend’s role.’ She actually came over one day and said ‘It would just kill me to see someone else play this role, you have to be the one who plays it.’ So with her blessing I took on the role. I really tried to work my butt off just to honor her.”

3. IT COULD HAVE STARRED SANDRA BULLOCK.

On the film’s DVD commentary, producer Alan Poul said that had Madsen been unable to step into the role of Helen, the part would have likely been offered to Sandra Bullock, who was still a relative unknown actress at that point. Though she had played the role of Tess McGill in the television adaptation of Working Girl, she was still a couple of years away from Speed (1994), the role that launched her into stardom.

4. ITS OPENING SHOT WAS GROUNDBREAKING.

The film’s opening credits feature a great aerial view of Chicago, which was pretty revolutionary for its time. “We did that with an incredible new machine called the Skycam, which can shoot up to a 500mm lens with no vibration,” Rose told The Independent. “You've never seen that shot before, at least not done that smoothly.”

5. NOT ALL OF THE FILM’S CREEPY DETAILS SPRUNG FROM CLIVE BARKER’S IMAGINATION.

While investigating one of Candyman’s crime scenes, Helen and Bernie discover that the design of the apartment’s medicine cabinet made it a possible point of entry for an intruder. This was not a made-up piece of horror movie fiction. While researching the film, Rose learned that a series of murders had been committed in Chicago in this very way.

6. BERNARD ROSE SEES CANDYMAN AS A ROMANTIC FIGURE.

Tony Todd stars in 'Candyman'
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Viewers may think of Candyman as one of the horror genre’s most terrifying villains, but Rose said that “the idea always was that he was kind of a romantic figure. And again, romantic in sort of the Edgar Allan Poe sense—it's the romance of death. He's a ghost, and he's also the resurrection of something that is kind of unspoken or unspeakable in American history, which is slavery, as well. So he's kind of come back and he's haunting what is the new version of the racial segregation in Chicago.

“And I think there's also something very seductive and very sweet and very romantic about him, and that's what makes him interesting. In the same way there is about Dracula. In the end, the Bogeyman is someone you want to surrender to. You're not just afraid of. There's a certain kind of joy in his seduction. And Tony was always so romantic. Tony ties him in so elegantly and is such a gentleman. He was wonderful.”

7. THE BEES IN THE FILM WERE BRED SPECIFICALLY TO APPEAR ONSCREEN.

No, that is not CGI! The bees that play a key role in Candyman are indeed real. So that they looked appropriately terrifying, but were less dangerous to the cast and crew, the filmmakers used newborn bees—they were just 12 hours old—so that they looked fully grown, but had less powerful stingers.

8. TONY TODD WAS STUNG 23 TIMES, AND GOT A BONUS EACH TIME IT HAPPENED.

Photo of Tony Todd in 'Candyman'
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In addition to allowing the filmmakers to cover his face with bees, Todd actually agreed to film a scene in which he had a mouthful of bees—and that, too, was all real. He told TMZ that he wore a dental dam to prevent any bees from sliding into his throat—which doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer a sting or two … or 23, to be exact, over the course of three Candyman movies. Though it might have been worth it. “I had a great lawyer,” he told TMZ. “A thousand dollars a pop.”

9. THE BEES WEREN’T GREAT NEWS FOR MADSEN, EITHER.

Madsen, too, had to get up close and personal with those bees—a fact that almost forced her to pass on the role. “When Bernie was first asking me to do the role I said, ‘Well, I can’t. I’m allergic to bees,’” she told HorrorNewsNetwork. “He said ‘No you’re not allergic to bees, you’re just afraid.’ So I had to go to UCLA and get tested because he didn’t believe [me]. I was tested for every kind of venom. I was far more allergic to wasps. So he said, ‘We’ll just [have] paramedics there, it will be fine!’ You know actors, we’ll do anything for a paycheck! So fine, I’ll be covered with bees.

“So we a had a bee wrangler and he pretty much told us you can’t freak out around the bees, or be nervous, or swat at them, it would just aggravate them. They used baby bees on me. They can still sting you, but are less likely. When they put the bees on me it was crazy because they have fur. They felt like little Q-tips roaming around on me. Then you have pheromones on you, so they’re all in love with you and think you’re a giant queen. I really just had to go into this Zen sort of place and the takes were very short. What took the longest was getting the bees off of us. They had this tiny ‘bee vacuum,’ which wouldn’t harm the bees. After the scene where the bees were all over my face and my head, it took both Tony and I 45 minutes just to get the bees off. That’s when it became difficult to sit still. It was cool though, I felt like a total badass doing it.”

10. PHILIP GLASS COMPOSED THE SCORE, BUT WAS DISAPPOINTED IN THE MOVIE.

When Philip Glass signed on to compose the score for Candyman, he apparently envisioned the final film being something totally different. According to Rolling Stone, “What he'd presumed would be an artful version of Clive Barker's short story ‘The Forbidden’ had ended up, in his view, a low-budget slasher.” Glass was reportedly disappointed in the film, and felt that he had been manipulated. Still, the haunting music is considered a classic score—and Glass’s own view of it seems to have softened over time. “It has become a classic, so I still make money from that score, get checks every year,” he told Variety in 2014.

11. MANY OF THE FILM'S SCENES WERE SHOT AT CABRINI-GREEN.

In 2011, the last remaining high-rise in the Cabrini-Green housing project was demolished. Over the years, the property—which opened in 1942—gained a notorious reputation around the world for being a haven for violence, drugs, gangs, and other criminal activities. While the project’s real-life history weaves its way into the narrative of Candyman, it only makes sense that Rose would want to shoot there. Which he did. But in order to gain permission to shoot there, he had to agree to cast some of the residents as extras.

“I went to Chicago on a research trip to see where it could be done and I was shown around by some people from the Illinois Film Commission and they took me to Cabrini-Green,” Rose said. “And I spent some time there and I realized that this was an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear. And rule number one when you're making a horror movie is set it somewhere frightening. And the fear of the urban housing project, it seemed to me, was actually totally irrational because you couldn't really be in that much danger. Yes, there was crime there, but people were actually afraid of driving past it. And there was such an aura of fear around the place and I thought that was really something interesting to look into because it's sort of a kind of fear that's at the heart of modern cities. And obviously, it's racially motivated, but more than that—it's poverty motivated.”

12. THE FILM’S PRODUCERS WERE WORRIED THAT THE FILM WOULD BE CONSIDERED RACIST.

During pre-production, Candyman’s producers began to worry that the film might draw criticism for being racist, given that its villain was black and it was largely set in an infamous housing project. “I had to go and have a whole set of meetings with the NAACP, because the producers were so worried,” Rose told The Independent. “And what they said to me when they'd read the script was 'Why are we even having this meeting? You know, this is just good fun.' Their argument was 'Why shouldn't a black actor be a ghost? Why shouldn't a black actor play Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter? If you're saying that they can't be, it's really perverse. This is a horror movie.'”

13. STILL, SOME FILMMAKERS COMPLAINED THAT IT WAS RACIST.

In a 1992 story in the Chicago Tribune, some high-profile black filmmakers expressed their disappointment that the film seemed to perpetuate several racist stereotypes. “There’s no question that this film plays on white middle-class fears of black people,” director Carl Franklin (Out of Time, Devil in a Blue Dress) said. “It unabashedly uses racial stereotypes and destructive myths to create shock. I found it hokey and unsettling. It didn't work for me because I don’t share those fears, buy into those myths.”

Reginald Hudlin, who directed House Party, Boomerang, and Marshall, described the film as “worrisome,” though he didn’t want to speak on the record about his specific issues with the film. “I've gotten calls about [the movie], but I think I'm going to reserve comment,” he said. “Some of my friends are in it and I may someday want to work for TriStar.”

For Rose, those assessments may have been hard to hear, as his goal in adapting Barker’s story and directing it was to upend the myths about inner cities. “[T]he tradition of oral storytelling is very much alive, especially when it's a scary story,” he told The Independent. “And the biggest urban legend of all for me was the idea that there are places in cities where you do not go, because if you go in them something dreadful will happen—not to say that there isn't danger in ghettos and inner city areas, but the exaggerated fear of them is an urban myth.”

14. IT’S STILL THE ROLE THAT MADSEN IS MOST RECOGNIZED FOR (ESPECIALLY AT AIRPORTS).

Kasi Lemmons and Virginia Madsen in 'Candyman'
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Though she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination in 2005 for Alexander Payne’s Sideways, in 2012 Madsen said that Candyman is still the role she is most recognized for—especially at airports.

“More people recognize me from that movie than anything I’ve done,” she told HorrorNewsNetwork. “It means a lot to me. It was after years of struggling. As an actor, you always want a film that’s annual, like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. I just love that I have a Halloween movie. Now it’s kind of legend this story. People have watched it since they were kids, and every Halloween it’s on, and they watch it now with their kids. That means a lot to me. The place I get recognized the most is the airport security for some reason. Every person in airport security has seen Candyman. Maybe it makes them a little afraid of me.”

15. THERE WAS AN ACTUAL CANDYMAN KILLER.

Though the Chicago-based legend of Candyman is a work of fiction, there was an actual serial killer known as “Candyman” or “The Candy Man.” Between 1970 and 1973, Dean Corll kidnapped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 young boys in the Houston area. Corll earned his sweet nickname from the fact that his family owned a candy factory.

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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