Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Vocabulary Forum    Characters from Charles Dickens
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Characters from Charles Dickens Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted
This week, to celebrate the birthday of Charles Dickens on February 7, we'll look at some of his characters whose names have become words in our language.

pecksniffian - hypocritically benevolent; sanctimonious.
after Seth Pecksniff, a character in Dicken's Martin Chuzzlewit
quote:
Philadelphia is the most pecksniffian of American cities, and thus probably leads the world. Early in 1918, when a patriotic moving-picture entitled "To Hell with the Kaiser" was sent on tour under government patronage, the word hell was carefully toned down, on the Philadelphia billboards, to h—.
- H.L. Mencken, The American Language (1921)

a review of a TV drama, in The Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2003 (excerpted):
When Sterling is forced to hold a news conference and the question about drug use is asked again, his response is, "It's none of your business." Yes, really. When reporters persist, he starts asking them whether they've ever used drugs. Finally he lectures them: "It's a silly question, and this is serious business." The whippersnapper! The jackanapes! The Pecksniffian dunderhead! Would a politician be able to get away with something like that?
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
The whippersnapper! The jackanapes! The Pecksniffian dunderhead!

I have to admit, I had never heard the word jackanapes before, so I looked it up in AHD and here is what it had to say:

NOUN: 1. A conceited or impudent person. 2. A mischievous child. 3. Archaic A monkey or an ape.
ETYMOLOGY: From Middle English Jack Napis, nickname of William de la Pole, Fourth Earl and First Duke of Suffolk (1396–1450).


So, you taught me Pecksniffian (is it always capitalized?) and I taught myself jackanapes!

Great theme this Wordcrafter! Big Grin
 
Posts: 1412 | Location: Buffalo, NY, United StatesReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Thank you, Morgan. I'm enjoying this one too. And thank you too for providing that further definition.

As to whether one must capitalize 'pecksniffian' must be capitalized: I don't know, but notice that Mencken didn't.

Micawber – a kindhearted, but ineffective, incurable optimist
from the character Mr. Wilkins Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield. The novel is partly autobiographical, and Micawber may be based on Dickens's ne'er-do-well father. He is always impoverished but optimistic, certain that "something will turn up".
quote:
Jack Beatty, The Atlantic, Feb. 1989, on the presidency of the senior George Bush:
Events might thrust crises before President Bush from which he could try to extract a "win." But this Micawberesque vision of foreign policy – something might turn up – is a formula for drift, not mastery.


[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Mon Feb 3rd, 2003 at 20:00.]
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Note to arnie - for some reason, the word-of-the-day I'm sending isn't getting through to you. Contact me, please. Thanks!
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
Wordcrafter,

I've been getting the word of the day in my email regularly. I haven't checked that every single one came through, though. I suppose there may have been a blip in sending/getting one.
 
Posts: 10930 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
[Sigh of relief. Thanks, arnie.]

Gradgrind – one interested only in cold, hard facts. (from the businessman of that name in Dickens' Hard Times. Though Gradgrind does not intend to be cruel, the education he imposes on his children laves them starved for affection and without a moral compass.)
quote:
A great many bricks of Gradgrind fact, whether laudatory or dismissive, are bound to destroy the fluid nature of human lives, yet facts are the stuff of biography.
- Elizabeth Hardwick, in the New Yorker, May 8, 1995
Note: is this recognized as a "word"? It is "in use", but I do not find it in any on-line version of any bricks-and-mortar dictionary (I have not yet checked OED). Credit to M-W Dictionary of Allusions.
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Fagin - an adult who instructs others (as children) in crime. (after Fagin, a character in Dickens' Oliver Twist)

This is probably too rare to be considered a "word" (I have not yet checked OED), but is occasionally used as a word, rather than as a literary reference.
quote:
Rosen was a fence for stolen goods, who directed 20-25 high school age youths in Garment Center thievery. His activities as a Fagin was [sic] the reason the police were in his apartment.
- Joe Goldstein, Rumblings: The Brooklyn Five, ESPN.com, Feb. 23, 2001
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Special thanks to reader Vicki, who tells us that 'Gradgrind' and 'Fagin' are each legitimate OED words. Thank you!

For today, Dickens' birthday, let's take a ridiculously obscure word. Today's quotation is a dialogue from Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott (Chapter 6: Polishing Mac).

Turveydrop - a perfect model of deportment; Turveydropdom; Turveydropian
(from Mr. Turveydrom, in Dickens' Bleak House)
quote:
(Rose) "But gentlemen don't catch up ladies like bags of meal and poke them into carriages in this way. It is evident that you need looking after, and it is high time I undertook your society manners."

(Mac) "I'll behave like a Turveydrop see if I don't."

Mac's idea of the immortal Turveydrop's behavior seemed to be a peculiar one; for, after dancing once with his cousin, he left her to her own devices and soon forgot all about her in a long conversation with Professor Stumph, the learned geologist. Rose did not care, for one dance proved to her that that branch of Mac's education had been sadly neglected.
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Uriah Heep - a man who is hypocritically humble. (after the Dickens character Uriah Heep, in David Copperfield)

Note: OED (1989) lists this not as a word, but as a character name "used allusively". (It adds Uriah Heepish.) It gives the example, "'If I may...' often issues from the lips of the Uriah Heeps." Listener April 4, 1974.
quote:
Only the pussy-whipped princelings of a press terrain soaked with feminist cant could mistake a stunted Uriah Heep like [presidential candidate Sen. John] McCain for a "real" man.
-Camille Paglia, Salon Magazine, March 15, 2000
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
We close the Dickens theme with Pickwickian,, after Samuel Pickwick, of Dickens' Pickwick Papers and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. This word has two completely different meanings, one being straightforward ("Pickwickian: simple and kind: a Pickwickian uncle"), but the other with very interesting variences in its shades of meaning, perhaps not properly captured by the dictionaries.

Pickwickian - (of a word) intended or taken "in a sense other than the obvious or literal one" (M-W) or "in an idiosyncratic or unusual way: a word used in a Pickwickian manner." (AHD)
But it seems more exact to define it as "used to mean the opposite of what it would literally seem". Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives:
quote:
In a Pickwickian sense. An insult whitewashed. Mr. Pickwick accused Mr. Blotton of acting in 'a vile and calumnious manner,' whereupon Mr. Blotton retorted by calling Mr. Pickwick 'a humbug.' It finally was made to appear that both had used the offensive words only in a Pickwickian sense, and that each had, in fact, the highest regard and esteem for the other. So the affront was adjusted, and both were satisfied.

I illustrate with two examples, the first of which is rather momentous.
quote:
Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, on the disputed Florida returns in the Bush-vs-Gore presidential elections:
[Y]ou're supposed to get it in by seven days later. What if you don't? Now, anybody reading that would realize that's a deadline only in a kind of Pickwickian sense. It's not a real deadline.
- Mr. Tribe, arguing Dec. 1, 2000 in George W. Bush vs. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board

The attempt to create and maintain a system of legal rules may miscarry in at least eight ways. The first and most obvious lies in a failure to achieve rules at all, so that every issue must be decided on an ad hoc basis. ... A total failure in any one of these eight directions does not simply result in a bad system of law; it results in something that is not properly called a legal system at all, except perhaps in the Pickwickian sense in which a void contract can still be said to be one kind of contract.
- Lon L. Fuller, The Morality of Law (revised edition, 1969)


[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Sun Feb 9th, 2003 at 10:04.]
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
What a wonderful thread this has been! In medicine we do have a malady called "pickwickian syndrome". It was inspired by Joe, an obese character in Pickwick Papers. The term was applied to this syndrome in 1956 by Dr. Charles Burwell, and basically results in pulmonary problems and polycythemia (increased red blood cells to adjust for the low oxygenation).
 
Posts: 23300 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of shufitz
posted Hide Post
quote:
Mr. Pickwick accused Mr. Blotton of acting in 'a vile and calumnious manner,' whereupon Mr. Blotton retorted by calling Mr. Pickwick 'a humbug.' It finally was made to appear that both had used the offensive words only in a Pickwickian sense, and that each had, in fact, the highest regard and esteem for the other.

So I trust that CJ and Richard are hurling barbs against each other only in a Pickwickian sense.

Can I play too? CJ, you are acting in a vile and calumnious manner! Richard, such humbugery! Smile
 
Posts: 2603 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
Could I vouchsafe that my postings on this board, especially those in response to others' submissions, have frequently been critical, occasionally censorious, but never gratuitously insulting?

Except, of course, when I am speaking of the execrable products of Anheuser Busch!

Richard English
 
Posts: 8037 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Yes, I think we all agree to both parts, Richard. Big Grin
 
Posts: 23300 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  
 

Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Vocabulary Forum    Characters from Charles Dickens

Copyright © 2002-12