[Repost] 13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Coined By Authors (by Paul Anthony Jones)

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13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Coined By Authors
Posted: 02/20/2014 8:03 am EST Updated: 02/20/2014 8:59 am EST

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Last month, HuffPost Books put together a list of¬†13 Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Invented By Shakespeare. Amongst them were such everyday terms ascourtship,¬†critical,¬†gloomy,¬†laughable,¬†generous¬†and¬†hurry. Although debate rages about whether Shakespeare actually coined these terms himself or was merely the first person to write them down, it is at least likely that a fair proportion of the¬†1,700 words and phrases¬†his works provide the first evidence of were indeed his. (And given that his¬†Complete Works¬†includes only around 30,000 different words in all, that’s still around 1 in every 30.)

But Shakespeare isn’t the¬†be-all and end-all¬†of course (that’s another of his by the way). English has had its fair share of literary giants over the years who, from Chaucer and Milton to Dickens and even Dr. Seuss, have each contributed words to our language. Here are 13 words that authors coined:

Boredom
If you’re not a fan of his books then it’s probably no surprise that Charles Dickens is credited with inventing the word¬†boredom¬†in his classic 1853 novel¬†Bleak House. Dickens’s works also provide the earliest records of the words¬†cheesiness,¬†fluffiness,flummox,¬†rampage,¬†wagonful¬†and¬†snobbish¬†— although¬†snobbishness¬†was invented by William Thackeray.

Chortle
A combination of “chuckle” and “snort,”¬†chortle¬†was coined by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel¬†Through The Looking-Glass. Carroll, like Shakespeare, is celebrated for his linguistic inventiveness and coined a vast number of similar expressions (which he termed “portmanteaux”) that blend together two pre-existing words, includingfrumious¬†(“fuming” and “furious”),¬†mimsy¬†(“miserable” and “flimsy”),¬†frabjous(“fabulous” and “joyous”), and¬†slithy¬†(“slimy” and “lithe”).

Dreamscape
A name for the imagined location in which a dream takes place, the worddreamscape¬†was coined by Sylvia Plath in her 1958 poem, “The Ghost’s Leavetaking.” One of the 20th century’s most important female writers, Plath also invented the words¬†sleep-talk,¬†windripped,¬†sweat-wet¬†and¬†grrring, which she used in her short story¬†The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit¬†to describe the sound of alley-cats.

Freelance
The earliest record of the word¬†freelance¬†in English comes from Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel¬†Ivanhoe. Whereas today it describes a journalist or similar worker employed on a project-by-project basis, it originally described a mercenary knight or soldier with no allegiance to a specific country, who instead offered his services in exchange for money.

Knickerbocker
The name of both a type of loose-fitting breeches (knickerbockers) and an ice cream (a knickerbocker glory), on its first appearance in English the word knickerbockerwas a nickname for someone descended from the original Dutch settlers of New York. In this context, it is derived from a pseudonym of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, who published his first major work, a satirical History of New York, under the alias Diedrich Knickerbocker in 1809.

Nerd
Although there is some debate as to where the word nerd comes from — one theory claims it comes from Mortimer Snerd, a dummy used by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen in the 1940s and 50s, while another claims it is a reversal of the word “drunk” — more often than not it is credited to Dr. Seuss, whose 1950 poem¬†If I Ran The Zoo¬†provides the word’s first written record.

Pandemonium
Nowadays we use¬†pandemonium¬†to mean simply “chaos” or “noisy confusion,” but given that its literal translation is “place of all demons” this is a pretty watered-down version — in fact it was coined in 1667 by the English poet John Milton, who used it as the name of the capital of Hell in his epic¬†Paradise Lost.

Pie-hole
The earliest written record of the word¬†pie-hole, a slang name for the mouth, comes from Stephen King’s 1983 novel¬†Christine. Admittedly however, this is something of a grey area as it’s questionable whether King actually coined the word himself.

Robot
The word¬†robot¬†was first used in the play¬†R.U.R.¬†(“Rossum’s Universal Robots”) written by the Czech playwright Karel ńĆapek in 1920, and first translated into English in 1923. ńĆapek in turn credited the word to his brother, Josef, who presumably based it on the Czech word¬†robotnik, meaning “slave” or “worker.” Unlike today, in the play ńĆapek’s¬†robots¬†were not automated machines but rather artificial “people” made of skin and bone but mass-produced in factories, who eventually revolt against mankind to take over the world.

Tintinnabulation
Tintinnabulation, another name for “a ringing of bells,” is credited to Edgar Allan Poe, who, appropriately enough, used it in a 1831 poem called “The Bells.” Other words Poe’s works provide the first record of include¬†sentience¬†(in¬†The Fall of the House of Usher, 1839),¬†multicolor¬†(in the short tale¬†The Landscape Garden, 1842) andnormality¬†(in¬†Eureka, 1848).

Twitter
The works of Geoffrey Chaucer provide the Oxford English Dictionary with more first attestations of English words than any other writer. Like Shakespeare, it is difficult (if not impossible) to ascertain which of these 2,000+ words Chaucer actuallyinvented and which were already in use before he wrote them down, but twitter, supposedly onomatopoeic of the sound of birds, is almost certainly his.

Unslumbering
If one 20th century writer above all others rivaled Shakespeare’s linguistic creativity, it was Thomas Hardy.¬†Unslumbering, meaning “in a state of restlessness,” is probably one of the most straightforward and most useful of his inventions, with more outlandish Hardyisms including¬†outskeleton,¬†blast-beruffled,¬†discompose¬†and evenunbe¬†(the opposite of “be”). In fact, Hardy himself¬†once commented, “I have looked up a word in the dictionary for fear of being again accused of coining, and have found it there right enough — only to read on and find that the sole authority is myself.”

Yahoo
It might be one of the world’s biggest corporations today, but the word¬†yahoo¬†has its more humble origins in¬†Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift’s 1726 adventure story in which the “Yahoos” are a race of dangerously brutish men. Within just a few years of its publication, the name¬†yahoo¬†had been adopted into English as another word for any equally loutish, violent or unsophisticated person.

Based on material taken from Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons and@HaggardHawks.

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