One of my reasons for doing this blog is that it will encourage me (even when, as now, I am barely more than a carcass filled with snot) to look up things I otherwise wouldn’t get round to looking up.
Case in point: The Great Cham. I know it’s an epithet applied to Samuel Johnson, but I’ve never had the first idea why. So I looked it up.
Well, a cham, says the OED, is “an obsolete form of khan (n.1) formerly commonly applied to the rulers of the Tartars and Mongols; and to the emperor of China”.
Ri-ight. So let’s turn to the ever-awesome Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:
“That great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson.”
That’s Tobias Smollett (letter to John Wilkes, March 16 1759). And that seems to be about all there is to it, really. Quite pleased to find that it was old Smollett, though, whom I’m quite fond of.
This has been a very dry post, so we’ll end with this: