Johnsonese is a term that refers to pedantic learned, rhetorically balanced, and high-sounding words. Dr. Johnson was the foremost among those who developed this style of writing, linguistically known as Johnsonese. The use of learned or intellectual words and phrases became a fashion in the 18th century, particularly after the first few decades. Some of the examples of Johnsonese words are ‘phenomenon’,’diphtheria’, ‘intellectual’, ‘latitudinarian’, ‘parricide’, etc.
Some of the Johnsonese sentences are-
1. To be starved to death is “to sink from an inanition into non-entity.”
2. Sir Issac Newton is the developer of the skies in their embodied movements.”
3. Mrs. Thrale, when a party of clever people sat silent, is said to have been “provoked by the dullness of a taciturnity that, in the midst of such renowned interlocutors, produced as narcotic a torpor as could have been caused by a death the most barren of all human faculties.”
In the 19th century, many writers reacted against Johnsonese, and preferred Saxon words and simple words. Johnsonese proved that the English dictionary contains big high-sounding and sometimes pulse-pounding words, but unfortunately, the addition encumbered the simple prose style developed by Joseph Addison and made it cumbrous and stodgy, far removed from the common idioms of the commoners and plebeians. So the reaction against Johnsonese, though it enriched the English dictionary, was quite justified.
However, Johnson who developed this style understood at the later stage of his life that the style should not be so religiously adopted and he himself tried to use less Latin and more English words in his writings. As Johnson’s style matured, he gradually gave up his various mannerisms and developed his second style which was much more softened, ceasing to be offensive. His later style is marked by simplicity, lucidity, the charm of his conservation, and intimacy.