Josh Wallaert has had the wonderful idea of blogging “Found poetry from the first edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). A new definition every day.” I had no idea Webster was such a creative and lyrical lexicographer, from the short and sweet:
An instrument of music with six strings; a kind of violin.
A word used in calling.
Among seamen, it is the answer to one that hails, equivalent to,
I hear, and am ready.
to the more discursive:
A quadruped of the genus Ursus, of a clumsy make, with short, thick legs, and long claws on the fore feet. It inhabits the north of Europe and Asia, burrows, is indolent and sleepy, feeds by night on vegetables, and is very fat.
Its skin is used for pistol furniture; its flesh makes good bacon, and its hair is used for brushes to soften the shades in painting. The American badger is called the ground hog, and is sometimes white.
I’ve read that several times now, and I like it better each time: “Its skin is used for pistol furniture; its flesh makes good bacon, and its hair is used for brushes to soften the shades in painting.” (By the way, Jill Lepore had an excellent piece in the November 6 New Yorker, “Noah’s Mark: Webster and the original dictionary wars”; it’s not online, but if you have access to that issue it’s a good read.)
Update. In September 2008, Josh said: “After two years, this little corner of the internet has closed shop. You’re welcome to stick around and check out the Webster’s Daily archives.”