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Alvin Wolfe wrote:

> The first published definition of "network" was, I believe, Samuel
> Johnson's, in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755):  "Any
> thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices
> between the intersections."
> In his own Dictionary of Quotations, 20th Century philologist Bergen
> Evans said of this definition:  "This remains one of the best
> of network we have.... Of all Johnson's definitions, this excited most

> ridicule.  But the obvious is not easy to define; of necessity, the
> simplest must be defined in terms less simple" (1968:483).

Just in case anyone cares, I'm going to guess that Johnson's is unlikely
to be the first definition of network.  It is true that few early
dictionaries included words that were considered to be simple and
obvious to the English speaking public (by lexicographers).  However, I
don't think it was never included before Johnson did his comprehensive
dictionary.  Years before Johnson, Nathanael Bailey attempted the first
comprehensive dictionary of the English language and that's where I'd
look.  I don't have access to the dictionary or I would check.

However, its apparent "plain-ness" was likely the reason that Johnson
defined it as he did.  Johnson is well-known for including many
definitions that are intentionally funny.  I believe that the "network"
definition is simply one of these.  (I used to keep on my office door
(before moving to a cube farm and eschewing office doors).)

Consider these definitions:

Cough: A convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity.

Distiller: One who makes and sells pernicious and inflammatory spirits.

Lexicographer:  A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge, that busies
himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of

(this last one infuriated Noah Webster so much that he made an ink
over the definition)

Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in
Scotland appears to support the people.

To worm: To deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his
tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running

Or more to the point of this group:

Reticulated: Made of network; formed with interstitial vacuities.

(for more of same, see:

In short, I think that his "network" definition was meant to be funny.
I'm not sure the same can be said for the wikipedia.


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