Smell - stink

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This page is an attempt at humour, of an academic sort. It involves a quotation from the eighteenth century, and a use of grammatical accuracy that will appeal to pedants. (It may appeal to them even more to say that the precise source of the anecdote has not yet been identified.)

It is said that when the great lexicographer Dr Johnson was told by a lady that he smelled, he replied "No, madam: you smell; I stink." The implication is that the verb 'to smell' is transitive, here with the implied Object of 'Dr Johnson', meaning that the lady perceived the odour of the writer. The verb 'to stink' needs - indeed cannot have - a Direct Object, and is thus intransitive.