The Boz had rizz
Here we are — like clockwork — every fortnight. Make sure you don’t miss out.
Ah, the holiday season is upon us.
Light the candles, trim the trees, and breathe deep the fragrant air filled with evergreen, mulled wine, and whatever holiday foods you love, from latkes and kugel to goose with chestnut stuffing.
Holidays are built on traditions — traditions passed down from generation to generation, some of which have spanned centuries.
Hanukkah and Christmas hold all of the charm of thousands of years of traditions, and for Christmas, much of it was established in the Victorian era, as this week’s reflection on A Christmas Carol reminded us.
As with any interaction with the Inimitable, I found myself ruminating on the spoils of his work, the beneficiary of which has been the English language.
As Dickens willed his quill to tell the tales of modern morals of London life, he invented more words than any other writer than Shakespeare, imbuing the English language with terms that are commonplace today.
Knud Soerensen in his 1985 book Charles Dickens: Linguistic Innovator, called Dickens “a large-scale contributor to the vocabulary of English.”
Among the more than 9,200 quotations from Dickens’s works in the Oxford English Dictionary, Dickens in credited with having first used between 213 and 265 words and having used 1,586 words in a new sense.
Some of the standard English terms attributed to Dickens include sawbones, messiness, whizz-bang, unpromisingly, and seediness.
As you can imagine, with the advent of the digitization of the world’s books, scholars have discovered earlier uses of words that were initially thought to have been invented by Dickens. In those cases, we find Dickens at his finest, he was taking familiar words and breathing new life into them.
Less is More
Dickens loved playing with nouns and reworking them into adjectives. He would often do this by appending the suffix –less to a noun, giving us words such as careless or penniless.