This weekend marks the 204th anniversary of the birth of the great English novelist Charles Dickens, who was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812.
The Oxford English Dictionary credits Dickens with the earliest record of a total of 226 English words, including such invaluable additions to your vocabulary like saucepanful, abuzz, boredom and cheesiness. That might sound like a lot, but compared to some other literary giants—like Sir Walter Scott (449 words), Ben Jonson (529), John Milton (563), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (613), William Shakespeare (1,504) and, top of the list, Geoffrey Chaucer (1,974)—Dickens is found trailing by quite some margin, sandwiched somewhere between the British Medical Journal (210) and the Daily Telegraph (230)*.
Dickens it seems might not have intentionally invented quite so many words as his fellow luminaries, but in retrospect he didn’t have to—the popularity and familiarity of his wonderfully well-drawn characters have given the English language more than its fair share of words, colourfully describing everyone from sermonizing hypocrites to amateurish, incompetent nurses. So, to mark what would be the great man’s 204th birthday, this week on YouTube, as part of @HaggardHawks’s ongoing #500Words series, here are 10 Words Derived From Dickens Characters.
* Take these figures with a pinch of salt, of course—after all, having the earliest credit in the dictionary does not necessarily mean that an author invented a word; they may just have been the first or most notable figure to use it in print. Nevertheless, statistics like these do provide a general idea of an author’s neologizing inventiveness—just don’t take them at face value...