Mammoth cheese, one nation, and shagging: Thomas Jefferson in the OED

Mashed Radish

To count to ten when angry, doll-baby, Irish-Americanleaf lettuce, Megalonyx, N.Y., Riesling, sanction? The man who gave us “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has also left us an incredible record of words in the English language.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In this one passage, this single sentence, of the Declaration of Independence—whose adoption on July 4, 1776 Americans commemorate today—Thomas Jefferson gives a new nation, a new democracy, its immortal, founding words.

But Jefferson’s words have left many other marks. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)attributes to Jefferson over 100 quotations that provide the first evidence of a word in English and nearly 400 quotations that…

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