With the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens approaching (get your party hats ready for February 7th!), it"s a great time to gauge the huge affect he had on the English language. By many type of accounts he was the a lot of widely read author of the Victoria period, and also no writer given that has hosted a candle to him in terms of popularity, prolificness, and also affect in spreading brand-new forms of the language — both highbrow and lowbrow.
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Dickens came from a decidedly modest background, working in a boot-bdoing not have manufacturing facility as a son. He grew up to be a keen observer of the many kind of facets and also layers of British culture, as well as the language that typified different social classes and also walks of life. In his novels, the words from his character"s mouths were closely favored to reflect their background and also personality, often for extremely satirical result. He infprovided his work via the colloquial speech formats of the day, weaving them right into narratives that had actually a deep impact on his readership.
One method to meacertain the extent to which Dickens has enriched the lexicon is to see exactly how frequently he is cited by the Oxford English Thesaurus to illustrate the usage of words and phrases. Among authors quoted in the current edition of the OED, Dickens lags behind just Shakespeare, Scott, Chaucer, Milton, and also Dryden for total number of citations (9,218). No one in the past 2 centuries comes close.
Of the Dickens citations in the OED, 258 citations are the earliest taped by the dictionary for a specific word, and also 1,586 are the earliest for a particular feeling of a word. Dickens was certainly an innovative writer, yet these examples are not necessarily his own coinages. As the OED proceeds to be revised, researchers have actually found previously citations (known as "antedatings") for many type of of the words previously ascribed to Dickens as the first-well-known author. Thanks to digitized databases like Google Books, it"s currently relatively easy to establish that, for circumstances, boredom was actually offered before Bleak House, conspiratorial before Little Dorritt. and also dust-bin prior to Dombey & Son. (Those are all words arising at the start of the alphabet whose entries have not been revised newly by the OED editors, so the Dickens-heavy research study of the dictionary"s first edition is still on screen.) But even if Dickens wasn"t the exceptionally first to use these terms, it"s safe to say that he introduced them to an global audience and helped to make novel words commonarea, be it devil-may-care from The Pickwick Papers or on the rampage from Great Expectations.
Very regularly the words that Dickens ushered in were from the earthy slang linked with the functioning class, the theatre, or the criminal underworld, and Dickens did much to make these once "vulgar" words mainstream. Eric Partridge, in his 1933 book Slang Today and Yesterday, assessed Dickens"s function in popularizing the slang of the era:
Dickens — the many read British author of the century — garnered a very huge proportion of the slang present in the time of the forty years ending in 1870, endowed a lot of it with a far much longer life than it would certainly otherwise have actually had, so popularized specific slang terms that they got admittance to conventional speech, and also so enforced on the public certain slangy creations of his own that they came to be general slang and then, in a few instances, were passed right into the widespread stock.
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Dickens"s exceptionally initially novel, The Pickwick Papers from 1837, introduced such slang terms as butter-fingers ("a clumsy person"), flummox ("bewilder"), sawbones ("surgeon"), and also whizz-bang ("sound of a gunshot"). Aacquire, some of these can now be antedated: Dickens"s butter-fingers described a clumsy cricket player, however David Block, writer of Baseround Before We Kbrand-new It, notes an American instance from a year prior to The Pickwick Papers was publimelted, in a verse around boys playing a very early develop of basesphere. Similarly, the mysterious expression put the kibosh on (meaning "dispose of lastly, finish off") shows up in Dickens"s 1836 repertoire, Sketches by Boz, as an example of criminal cant. But the word researcher Stephen Gorankid newly uncovered an example from two years previously. (It"s still unclear wbelow kibosh comes from: see articles by Michael Quinion and also Anatoly Liberguy for some theories.)
Alongside the slang that Dickens was picking up from the streets of London, he was also inserting his own creations, though few of his own more fanciful terms would capture on. In The Pickwick Papers we find comfoozled definition "exhausted": "He"s in a horrid state o" love; reg"larly comfoozled, and done over with it." And in Nicholas Nickleby (1839), he uses a peculiar euphemism for "hell": "It"s all up with its handsome friend; he has actually gone to the demnition bow-wows." In reality, Dickens appreciated coming up with clever euphemisms, occasionally utilizing the names of parts of speech standing in for taboo words:
I will not, states Bark, have actually no adjective police and adjective strangers in my adjective premises! I will not, by adjective and also substantive! — On Duty through Inspector Field in Houseorganize Words (1851)
"But these civilization are," he insisted..."so," Participled, "sentimental!" — Somebody"s Luggage in All Year Round (1862)
One way that Dickens devised new words was by adding suffixes to old ones. He made good use of the -y suffix to make adjectives (mildewy, bulgy, swishy, soupy, waxy, trembly) and -iness to make nouns (messiness, cheesiness, fluffiness, seediness). Sometimes the suffixing acquired a bit out hand: the OED finds room for metropolitaneously ("in urban fashion") from an 1852 letter by Dickens, but it"s marked as a "nas soon as word," meaning nobody various other than Dickens experienced fit to use it. He also had a penchant for turning nouns right into verbs — some with reasonably noticeable definitions (corkscrew, polka, manslaughter), others a little even more unusual:
The table-covers are never taken off, other than once the leaves are turpentined and bees" waxed. — Sketches by Boz (1836)
"I will certainly not," said Fanny, without answering the question, "submit to be mother-in-lawed by Mrs. General." — Little Dorrit (1857)
Beyond individual words, Dickens was the understand of the well-turned expression, and some of his phrases have come to be welcomed idioms. From Bleak Housage we obtain the expressions "to have/get someone"s number" (definition "to understand another person") and also "not to put as well fine a point upon it" (definition "not to mince words") — the last commonly used by the plain-speaking Mr. Snagsby. Masahiro Hori, in his book Investigating Dickens" Style: A Collocational Analysis, discovered that Dickens regularly connected particular phrasal trends or "collocations" through specific personalities. And as I pointed out in a New York Times Book Recheck out essay on computational ideologies to literary style, Hori"s research also points to the means that Dickens can breathe brand-new life right into old collocations, such as once an old lady in The Pickwick Papers "looked carving-knives at the hardheaded delinquent," a play on the expression "to look daggers at someone."
Finally, no discussion of Dickensian language would certainly be finish without mentioning the richly evocative names of his personalities. Many of the names are so memorable that they too have actually entered the dictionary, as allusive descriptions of world via personalities choose the personalities. Therefore, a Scrooge (from A Christmas Carol) is a miserly "bah, humbug!" type; a Fagin (from Oliver Twist) is a trainer of young thieves; and also a Micawber (from David Copperfield) is an incurable optimist. If someone is Pecksniffian, then prefer Seth Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit he"s smarmily hypoinstrumental, but if he"s Pickwickian, then like Samuel Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers he"s jovial, naive, and generous. We remember these characters also currently for their apt names and also for the words they spoke — both testaments to Dickens"s prodigious etymological gifts.