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Dickens in the Dictionary

12
Apr
2012
 

By Christine Lovatt

When it comes to creating and naming fictitious characters, there can’t be many authors more colourful than Charles Dickens, who provided us with such well-known names as Martin Chuzzlewit, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim Cratchit and Barnaby Rudge.

I’m sure Dickens enjoyed inventing outrageous names. What about Edwin Drood, Abel Magwitch, wait for it... Wackford Squeers...how did he think them up?

Some are still used regularly to describe personality traits, such as Uriah Heep, (ever so ‘umble) and Barkis (is willing). In the dictionary you’ll find Pickwickian (naive and benevolent) and Scrooge (a mean miserly person.)

When Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels he would have been surprised to learn that Lilliputian would come to refer to a tiny person.

Quixotic, meaning impractically idealistic, comes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Utopian, from Sir Thomas More’s writing, is often used to describe an imaginary society where life is perfect.

But Shakespeare must have the best-known line-up of heroes and heroines...Hamlet, Portia, Othello...and villains...Cassius, Lady Macbeth and the mischievous Puck.

Shakespeare’s moneylender Shylock makes it into the dictionary too, as a heartless or demanding creditor and Falstaffian means jovial, plump and dissolute, much like Falstaff himself. 

Jabberwocky, serendipity, gargantuan, are all words invented by authors, very often because no such word exists to describe that particular meaning. Our English language is all the richer for their inventive genius!

What's your favourite literary character name or invented word?  

 

Christine

15 Responses to

Dickens in the Dictionary

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postie57 said:
April 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Ichabod Crane has always stood out in my mind, probably because it sounded so different and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a great word because it makes you feel good, just saying it

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April 13, 2012 at 6:55 AM

wonderlust. changing one letter to an existing word (wanderlust)and transforming it from an irresistible urge to travel to an irresistible need to enjoy the power of thinking and be in awe

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mommyscat said:
April 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM

I think that some of the words our children invent for things when they are toddlers are special too, even if they only have meaning within the family group.

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Xrosie said:
April 14, 2012 at 7:36 AM

My sister used to call planes yaryars when she was a kid, and forty years later my daughter did the same, weird. By the way, I am a Dickens fan, agree the names are terrific, what an imagination

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Daisy003 said:
April 14, 2012 at 5:06 PM

My son, when he was 8, called a group of men on their quads,out and about on the dunes, 'quaders', it has stuck ever since - love playing with words...........

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said:
April 15, 2012 at 3:03 PM

When my son was very little he called calculators counterlators which has stuck within our family

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April 15, 2012 at 9:40 PM

A 9 year-old granddaughter was reading from a guide book as we drove along. She read very well until she arrived at "fossilised cockles", which she called "frozzled coggles". Anything unusual became known as "frozzled coggles" from then on.

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robcro said:
April 15, 2012 at 10:59 PM

Flutterbies and harsedroppers were often remarked on in the garden by my little sister and little brother respectively

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April 16, 2012 at 12:28 AM

I used to call coat hangers hangcoaters when I was a girl and then my daughter came out with it the other day too!!

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no1llama said:
April 16, 2012 at 12:35 AM

my cousin always had to read the 'actions' as opposed to the instructions, and my kids would always read the 'blab' on the back of the book before making their choice :) It's fun to play with words, we all must think so, or we wouldn't be on the You Play site :)

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XapatraX said:
April 16, 2012 at 3:05 AM

Uriah Heep has been my favourite for decades, the twisting, washing hand motions are brilliant too!

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kragzy said:
April 16, 2012 at 10:56 AM

My son, now an accomplished adult, had many mixed up words when he was a child. Examples included pillercatters and brow-eyes. Fond memories!

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goforit said:
April 21, 2012 at 4:50 PM

my son used to call fire extinguishers fire extinguiwishers always stuck and his daughter did the same.Another one when the wallabies were playing he used to call them wobbelies also has stuck.

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April 23, 2012 at 8:21 AM

My brother and I chose 'frumious bandersnatch' to call each other when we were young.

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said:
July 08, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Our family has adopted my youngest's first words, headed-ache and sling-glet. What is a singlet?