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).

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more on literature from the online archives

30.2—March/April 2017

Rescuing Cervantes

on Reading Don Quixote in Its Original Christian Context by Luis Cortest

30.5—Sept/Oct 2017

The Unforgotten

on Costly Grace in Breece D'J Pancake's Flyover Country by Casey Chalk

20.6—July/August 2007

The Anglo-Saxon Evangel

The Beowulf Poet Was a Shrewd Christian Apologist by Douglas Wilson


more from the online archives

18.2—March 2005

Long Shadows of Eden

On Conservatism as Vexation, Vanity & Near Impossibility by Graeme Hunter

29.5—Sept/Oct 2016

Dying of Despair

on the Loss of True Community & Rising Political Desperation by Karl D. Stephan

30.5—Sept/Oct 2017

Passions' Republic

The Christian Cure for What Ails Modern Politics by David Bradshaw

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00