Words Wrought by Writers

By Paul Dickson

Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781620405406, 240pp.

Publication Date: April 22, 2014


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 Carre ("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.

About the Author
Paul Dickson has written eight bat and ball books (one on softball, seven on baseball) and is working on the third edition of his Dickson Baseball Dictionary, as well as a new work, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball. He also writes narrative 20th century American history and compiles word books. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland, with his wife, Nancy.

Praise For Authorisms

“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