The Samuel Johnson Rule

My personal lexicon is deliberately limited and guarded with care. I try not to use new words unless they actually refer to new things. “Blender” comes to mind, or maybe “spark plug,” if they still have those.

Every time I hear what sounds like a new word, I grow nervous; somebody is probably trying to deceive me. Indeed, if I had not read it years ago in the Rambler essays, I feel certain I would not say “humankind.” In the contemporary ambience, it just strikes the wrong note.

Here are some words I absolutely will not use:

1. “homosexual”—ugh!—mixing Greek with Latin. “Homosexual,” that is to say, is formed of a faulty conjunction, much like the act itself.

2. “heterosexual”—the proper word here is “normal.”

3. “homophobia”—if there is to be such a word, it can only mean “the same fear.”

In respect to this subject, I always use expressions like “sodomite” and “sexual pervert”; no others. This is a line from which I will not back off by a single centimeter.

Also, I avoid abstract terms that would have to be explained to Samuel Johnson.


Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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