Intended for healthcare professionals


When I use a word …: Spurious words

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 14 February 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:i
  1. Jeff Aronson
  1. Oxford

    Lexicographers don't always get it right. James Boswell tells how a woman challenged Samuel Johnson to explain why, in his dictionary of 1755, he had defined “pastern” as “the knee of a horse.” [Johnson amended this error in the subsequent abridged version of 1756, in which pastern is correctly defined as “that part of the leg of a horse between the joint next the foot and the hoof.”] Johnson's reply was typically robust: “Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.”

    Among the almost 300 000 entries in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary a tiny …

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