Politeness is, of course, double-edged, its qualities can be conﬁrmed by its absence as well as its presence. Johnson was, for instance, neatly able to suggest other interpretations for the praise which his own omission of ‘naughty words’ received. ‘What, my dears! Then you have been looking for them!’ he retorted. As a careful reading of Johnson’s dictionary moreover reveals, even ‘polite writers’ can touch on matters which are otherwise impolite. While impolite was itself excluded as an entry term, Johnson chose to include four lines of poetry from Sir John Suckling under fart (‘Love is the fart / Of every heart; / It pains a man when ’tis kept close; / And others doth offend, when ’tis let loose’), while piss received apparent legitimization from Shakespeare himself (‘I charge the pissing conduit run nothing but claret’). Johnson’s accompanying deﬁnitions meanwhile maintained the decorum (and reticence) which politeness seemed to
demand: ‘to make water’, he delicately noted of piss. Fart was deﬁned by the similarly euphemistic ‘wind from behind’.