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Word for the Wise November 03, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Impoverished

When we described Doctor Samuel Johnson as the impoverished son of a bookseller [who] left our lexicon a wealth of writings, we were taken by the notion of linking literary forms while contrasting wealth and poverty. Someone who didn抰 appreciate our rich linguistic tapestry wrote in to question our use of the word impoverished, pointing out (and we quote): Johnson was never 慽mpoverished,?which?implies that before he was poor, he was once wealthy; nor, it seems, was his father. Our critic went on to muse Dr. Johnson might more properly be termed the son of a poor bookseller?/em> despite the fact that some might object that the use of the word 憄oor?in this construct might lead one to misconstrue quantity for quality. After all, concluded our correspondent, a poor bookseller is bound to be a poor bookseller. (来源:英语博客 http://space.englishcn.com)

True enough, this last point, but we still are left to decide if impoverished son of a bookseller was in fact a fair description of Samuel Johnson. We stand by our words. While impoverished does indeed imply a reduction to poverty or indigence, it does not imply wealth as a starting point. Johnson抯 bookseller father died when the boy was still in school, and the surviving family did indeed fall into poverty. They may not have had far to fall, but fall they did.

 
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