Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers

Overview

William Shakespeare’s written vocabulary consisted of 17,245 words, including hundreds that were coined or popularized by him. Some of the words never went further than their appearance in his plays, but others—like bedazzled, hurry, critical, and anchovy—are essential parts of our standard vocabulary today.

Many other famous and lesser-known writers have contributed to the popular lexicon. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Sir Walter Scott ranks second to Shakespeare ...

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Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers

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Overview

William Shakespeare’s written vocabulary consisted of 17,245 words, including hundreds that were coined or popularized by him. Some of the words never went further than their appearance in his plays, but others—like bedazzled, hurry, critical, and anchovy—are essential parts of our standard vocabulary today.

Many other famous and lesser-known writers have contributed to the popular lexicon. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Sir Walter Scott ranks second to Shakespeare in first uses of words and giving a new and distinct meaning to already existing words (Free Lances for freelancers). John Milton minted such terms as earthshaking, lovelorn, by hook or crook, and all Hell broke loose, and was responsible for introducing some 630 words.

Gifted lexicographer Paul Dickson deftly sorts through neologisms by Chaucer (a ha), Jane Austen (base ball), Louisa May Alcott (co-ed), Mark Twain (hard-boiled), Kurt Vonnegut (granfalloon), John le Carrè (mole), William Gibson (cyberspace), and many others. Presenting stories behind each word and phrase, Dickson enriches our appreciation of the English language in a book as entertaining as it is enlightening.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This genial book celebrates above all the dazzling inventiveness of authors." —Wall Street Journal

"Much like raisin bread from your kitchen toaster, another Paul Dickson book has popped up, much to the delight of his devoted legion of followers. … Once you crack the covers of this fascinating (and highly informative) dictionary-rest assured-you won’t set it down again until you’ve gone through the complete A-Z of entries; that’s assuming, of course, that you’re a lover of words." —Daily News Gems

"I was fascinated to discover that sayings I'd mistaken for relatively recent - blurb (1907), frenemy (1953), weapons of mass destruction (1937), wimp (from an 1898 children's book by Evelyn Sharpe) - actually predated me. It's enough to drive an anxious magazine editor to verbicide." —Mother Jones

“Thoroughly enjoyable.” —The Washington Post, on Words from the White House

“Many of the phrases in Dickson's book are tied forever to certain moments in history . . . Once Harding used the phrase, ‘Founding Fathers’ seemed to have been always with us.” —The Christian Science Monitor, on Words from the White House

"Entertaining and informative . . . guaranteed to grab our attention." —The Washington Times, John R. Coyne, Jr., on Words from the White House

"I love this!" —Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, on Words from the White House

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620405406
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 113,619
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Dickson

Paul Dickson has written a dozen word books and dictionaries, including Words from the White House, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, and Slang. An occasional contributor to the late William Safire’s On Language column in the New York Times, Dickson has coined several words of his own, including “demonym” (term that describes a person geographically, as in a New Yorker). He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland.

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