To this day, Johnson’s critics complain of his fondness for Latinate language. The poet and critic Thomas Edwards complained that Johnson larded his Dictionary with “monstrous words . . . which were never used by any who pretended to talk or write English.” He meant inkhorn words, hundreds of which Johnson included in his Dictionary and his periodical essays. Examples include aedespotick, muliebrity, obmutescence, turbinated and perflation. My understanding is that Johnson’s goal was precision not pretense. I can’t recall a passage in his prose that reads pretentiously; that is, with the sole purpose of showing off. He wrote with a gravity and solemnity that sounds alien to contemporary readers. Inkhorn terms are likelier to be found in writing than in speech, though the caricature of the bloviating South senator comes to mind. The OED’s definition for ink-horn term is neutral: “a term of the literary language, a learned or bookish word.”
Much contemporary academic writing is purposely littered with inkhorn terms -- hermeneutics is an old favorite -- words used not to communicate but to flatter the writer’s misbegotten sense of eloquence and singularity. Such words draw attention not to an idea but to their author. They are, to use a Latinate word included by Johnson in his Dictionary, mundungus.