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14 Sunny Facts About The O.C.

Josh Schwartz—who had never run a TV show before—was only 26 years old when he brought the idea of a nighttime teen soap to Fox, making him the youngest showrunner in the history of network television. Fox picked up the pilot and ordered an unprecedented 27 episodes for the first season (the final season had only 16).

The O.C. premiered on August 5, 2003, early enough in the season that a lot of competing shows were still in reruns. It followed the lives of a group of affluent teens (and their parents) living in Newport Beach, California. But unlike predecessors like Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210, The O.C. focused more on character than plot, and featured characters who were outsiders, such as Ryan Atwood, played by Ben McKenzie. The show was also self-aware in its humor.

The O.C. ran for four seasons until Fox canceled it after a low-rated third season, which ended in 2006 with the producers killing off one of its main characters. On February 22, 2007—just over 10 years ago—the series took its final bow.

Years later, The O.C. is remembered for leading to a slate of California-based reality shows (like Laguna Beach and The Real Housewives of Orange County) and other meta nighttime soaps (like Desperate Housewives), the creation of Chrismmukah, and for the show’s killer soundtrack, which helped launch indie rock music into the mainstream. Here are 14 sunny facts about the series.

1. THE PRODUCERS USED A TROJAN HORSE TECHNIQUE TO CONVINCE FOX TO DO THE SHOW.

Josh Schwartz told The New York Times that he was a fan of canceled-too-soon shows like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and My So-Called Life. “You can’t tell a network that’s what you want to make because they’ll just say, ‘Those shows lasted 15 episodes and they’re off the air and we don’t want them.’ But if instead you go to Fox and say, ‘This is your new 90210—that’s something they can get excited about.”

Schwartz and fellow executive producer Stephanie Savage pitched Fox the concept of a juvenile delinquent from Chino (Ryan Atwood) infiltrating the glamour of Orange County’s gated communities. “And really what we hoped we had were these characters that were a little bit funnier and more soulful and different and specific than the kinds you usually see in that genre,” Schwartz explained. “They would be the soldiers inside our Trojan horse.”

2. INITIALLY, FOX WAS CONCERNED ABOUT SETH COHEN’S PERSONALITY.

Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) wasn’t as hunky as Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), which concerned the network because “this was a character that might hue too closely to the Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared world of shorter-lived teen soaps, or teen shows,” Schwartz told TIME. “Then Fox had their eye on it, and I was always told, ‘If Ryan is the Luke Perry, then who is the Jason Priestley?’ I was like, 'Welp, we’re not doing 90210.'" But Seth’s sardonic nerdiness ended up becoming a cultural touchstone for the show. “So that went away when we cast Adam Brody, who came in and was really funny and charming, but the network also felt like would be someone who girls would find appealing,” Schwartz said. “But that was a big risk at the time.”

3. THE SHOW’S TITLE CAME FROM SCHWARTZ’S COLLEGE DAYS.

Schwartz grew up in Rhode Island but attended college at the University of Southern California. “When I was in college, all these kids from Orange County, they’d be like, ‘I’m from the O.C.,’ as if they are from the L.B.C. [Long Beach County] and it was the ‘hood. And I always found that very funny even if it was unintentional on their part,” he told HitFix.

As Luke Ward (Chris Carmack) beat up Ryan, Karate Kid-style, at a bonfire on the beach during the pilot, he uttered the now-famous catchphrase, “Welcome to The O.C., bitch.” Schwartz had no idea the line would endure. “I started hearing stories from friends who were working as day traders on the floor in New York and when they would close a sale they’d be like, ‘Welcome to the O.C., bitch!’ And throw the money at each other.”

4. THE PRODUCERS WORRIED “CALIFORNIA” WAS TOO POPULAR TO USE AS A THEME SONG.

Schwartz told HitFix he thought everybody already knew the Phantom Planet song “California,” which became the show’s theme song. “It had already been on the radio. And so we thought, 'We can’t use that song, it’s already out there,'” he said. They decided to edit the song into a “sizzle reel,” something they had to show the network before they finished the pilot. “And what we found was nobody really knew the song,” Schwartz said. “Everybody’s like, ‘What’s that song? That song is incredible.’ And we realized that just because me and [producer] Steph [Savage] and some of the writers had known that song, that song didn’t really get played that much outside of L.A. and KROQ or whatever at the time. So we’re like, ‘Okay, people don’t really know that song.’”

5. THE MUSIC BECAME ITS OWN CHARACTER.

“I always viewed it as wanting the music to feel like an extension of the emotional lives of the characters, which I guess sounds kind of pretentious,” Schwartz told TIME. “When I was sitting down to write the pilot, there was this Joseph Arthur song that plays at the end of the pilot, and when I heard that song, it was like, ‘Oh, okay, this is how I want the end of the show to feel.’ That it was less about the place and more about how our characters were feeling.” He said the music they licensed just happened to be the kind of bands and artists the cast and crew were listening to at the time, which was indie rock. “It was cheaper to license, so that was a happy accident.”

Music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas had a process for getting music on the show. “I would send out weekly [compilation CDs] with any music that I felt was in the world, which then we discussed at length,” Patsavas told MTV. “If someone responded to a certain band, I’d send Josh or Stephanie or one of the editors more music. Then, I’d pitch for scenes and moments. How are we telling the story? How do these bands and songs and lyrics support the drama?” Eventually, the show started promoting music from bigger bands like U2 and Coldplay.

6. THE CREATOR OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT WANTED THE CAST TO MAKE A CAMEO ON HIS SHOW.

The O.C. premiered a few months before Arrested Development, which is also set in Orange County and also aired on Fox. One of the comedy series' running jokes is that a character will say “The O.C.” and Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) will correct them and say, “Don’t call it that.”

Schwartz told HitFix that Mitch Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, "asked if our actors could come on his show to play themselves as the stars of The O.C. I was worried that was one layer of meta too many, so I said no.”

7. THE SEASON 2 FINALE LED TO AN ICONIC SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE PARODY.

Spoiler alert: Season two ends with a rough and tumble fight between Ryan and his brother, Trey (played by Logan Marshall-Green). It looks as if Trey will kill his brother, so Marissa intervenes. She grabs Trey’s gun and shoots and kills Trey to protect Ryan. As the events unfurl, Imogen Heap’s melancholic “Hide and Seek” plays over the scene. Almost two years after the episode aired, SNL’s Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, and guest host Shia LaBeouf took turns shooting each other in the digital short. The parody currently has more YouTube views than the finale clip.

8. SANDY COHEN WAS THE ANCHOR OF THE SHOW.

Besides highlighting the lives of teens, Schwartz also wanted to use the moral and wise Sandy Cohen (played by Peter Gallagher) to project what a good father looked like. “One of the things very early on that we realized was that the biggest wish fulfillment aspect of the show wasn’t the big houses and it wasn’t the cool cars or clothes," Schwartz told HitFix. "It was this idea of the Cohen family and having Sandy as a father. There were so many kids out there that would love to have been adopted by a family like the Cohens, and would love to have a father figure in their life like Sandy.”

9. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MARISSA AND ALEX MADE EXECUTIVES UNCOMFORTABLE.

During the second season, Marissa dates bisexual Alex (Olivia Wilde), who runs the local music venue The Bait Shop. The “Nipplegate” Janet Jackson Super Bowl had recently occurred, which led to network conservatism. “We had a whole episode where every kiss between them was cut out, just so I could get one kiss in 'The Rainy Day Women' episode,” Schwartz told ESPN. “I was literally on the phone with Broadcast Standards and Practices bartering for kisses. It was a battle, and the powers that be are part of a big corporation, and were going in front of congress at the time. Every network was. So, I understand they are all good people who were under a lot of pressure. But they wanted that story wrapped up as fast as humanly possible and Alex moving on out of The O.C.” The network got their wish—Wilde left the show mid-season. “But Olivia is a superstar,” Schwartz said. “She was great in the part. I would have her back on the show in a heartbeat.”

10. THE O.C. MADE DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE FAMOUS.

The Seattle-based indie band gained notoriety when Seth Cohen kept talking about how much he loved the band. A few of the band’s songs popped up on the show, too. In April 2005, the band appeared as themselves and performed at The Bait Shop. “If anything, it was really a point of self-awareness for us,” the band’s bassist, Nick Harmer, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We were like, ‘You mean, there’s some credibility that the character gets for saying our band name? It’s not a laughing point? They’re not making fun of us?’” A few months later, their major-label debut, Plans, was released and ended up going platinum and being nominated for a Grammy.

11. TATE DONOVAN SAID SOME OF THE YOUNG CAST MEMBERS WERE “DIFFICULT.”

In an interview with Vulture for the show’s 10th anniversary, Tate Donovan—who played Marissa's father, Jimmy, and directed some episodes—said that, "By the time I started to direct, the kids on the show had developed a really bad attitude. They just didn’t want to be doing the show anymore. It was pretty tough; they were very tough to work with. The adults were all fantastic, total pros. But you know how it is with young actors—and I know because I was one of them once. When you achieve a certain amount of success, you want to be doing something else. I mean, one of them turned to me and said, 'This show is ruining my film career,' and he had never done a film before. You just can’t help but sort of think that your life and your career are going to go straight up, up, up. So they were very difficult."

12. TURKEY ADAPTED THE O.C. INTO A SHOW.

In 2013, Turkey created a version of The O.C. for Star TV called Med Cezir (The Tide). Like the American version, it featured attractive teens and their attractive parents ensnared in weekly melodrama. 

13. THE PRODUCERS BANNED THE CHARACTERS FROM SMOKING.

In the pilot, Marissa and Ryan meet-cute in his driveway. Ryan is smoking a cigarette when Marissa saunters over to him and asks for one. “That is the last time any characters, or at least teenage characters, smoke a cigarette on broadcast television,” Schwartz told MTV. “It was such a battle to get that scene to stay in the show. We had to make sure that at the end of the scene, when Sandy comes down the driveway and breaks them up, he says, ‘No smoking in my house!’ And they put out the cigarette. That was it; you could never smoke again.”

14. TATE DONOVAN AGREES: JIMMY COOPER IS A TERRIBLE FATHER.

Donovan played the father of Marissa and Kaitlin Cooper. He divorces their mom, Julie, and becomes both an absentee and negligent father. Entertainment Weekly named Jimmy as one of TV’s worst dads, a sentiment Donovan agreed with. “We were shooting the show, and it starts to air, and my sister, who is the mother of three teenagers, calls me up and goes, ‘You know, you’re the worst dad of all time. You’re such a terrible father I can’t believe it.’ And I go, ‘Really? I am?’” Donovan told Vulture. “And so I go up to Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage] and say, ‘I’m a really bad dad,’ and they’re like, ‘No, you’re not, you’re a great dad!’ I was not a great dad. I was letting my kid do whatever she wants. I left her drunk on the steps. What kind of parents don’t notice their daughter is drunk and passed out? I kept telling them I was a bad father and they said, ‘No, no.’ Ten years later I’m on this list [of bad TV dads] and I feel vindicated.”

All images courtesy of The O.C./Facebook.

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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'
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

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'
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

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'
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

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'
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

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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