Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens!

Happy Birthday, Chuck D!

No, I’m not referring to the front man for Public Enemy (His birthday is August 1, fyi).

I’m talking about the incomparable English novelist, Charles Dickens! The creator of such unforgettable characters as Oliver Twist, Ebeneezer Scrooge, Miss Havisham, Little Dorrit, Sidney Carton, Samuel Pickwick, and Uriah Heep, was born 200 years ago today.

Besides penning memorable tales full of beloved characters, Dickens was a master wordsmith who contributed significantly to the modern English lexicon. He has long been credited with coining words like boredom, conspiratorial, and dust-bin, and though recent scholarship has proven that these words existed before appearing in the works of Dickens, it is without question that they were introduced to the wide world through his novels. Here’s a short sample of the 258 words the Oxford English Dictionary attributes to Dickens (via Ben Zimmer on Vocabulary.com)

  • boredom
  • conspiratorial
  • dust-bin
  • devil-may-care
  • butterfingers
  • flummox
  • sawbones
  • whizz-bang
  • kibosh
  • swishy
  • soupy
  • waxy
  • corkscrew
  • polka
  • manslaughter

I found it surprisingly difficult to find more information on the linguistic contributions of Charles Dickens online. I therefore borrowed heavily from an excellent article by Ben Zimmer at Vocabulary.com. I highly recommend you click through and read it yourself!


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko02-07-2012

    Uriah Heep was a band in the 70s. And 80s. In fact, I just looked them up, and they’re still going!

    But the Dickens character came first. 🙂

  2. Lois

    And I thought Uriah Heep was a 70’s rock star. I guess I should bone up on more Dickens.

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