What does a shapesmith do?


This week I’ve chosen another word from Dr. Johnson‘s English dictionary (1755) – shapesmith. He defined this as “one who undertakes to improve the form of the body” and I can’t help thinking that he had modern day personal trainers in mind.

He may not have been a fan of shapesmiths, the only images I’ve found of old Samuel depict a rather portly chap, but then again he may not have had physical fitness fanatics in mind at all. Apparently a shapesmith (in a citation from 1719) could also refer to a corset maker. In the 1700s they had corsets, nowadays we have body-shaping underwear and cosmetic surgery. Perhaps it is human nature to seek the shortcut?

But I doubt that he had Shapesmith, the comic book super hero in mind. He’s a Martian metamorph from the Invincible comics.

Whatever Samuel’s intention in his ground-breaking dictionary, I love that his word is still in use, and still morphing with use, 260 years later.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


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