National Press Club

Press Club member Paul Dickson tells Book Rap Shakespeare invented word for fireworks

April 25, 2014 | By Joe Motheral | JoeGM35@aol.com

National Press Club member Paul Dickson prepares to sign copies of his book, "Authorisms" following an NPC Book Rap, April 23

National Press Club member Paul Dickson prepares to sign copies of his book, "Authorisms" following an NPC Book Rap, April 23

Photo/Image: Joe Motheral

April 23 happened to be the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, an appropriate date for Paul Dickson to appear at a National Press Club Book Rap to discuss his book, Authorisms a compilation of words and phrases coined by the famous and infamous.

Shakespeare brought over 17,000 words into the English language, Dickson said.

“Five hundred to six hundred are still with us today, for example 'bump' and 'fireworks',” Dickson said.

Dickson bedazzled -- another word from Shakespeare -- his audience with common words that came into being from such as John Milton who invented “pandemonium and satanic," he said.

It was Sir Walter Scott, Dickson said who invented freelance and in Dickson’s favorite book, Ivanhoe, 'world of chivalry' implying “nobility of death by glory in combat.” Mark Twain then spoofed that in A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court.

Twain was the first to use "hardboiled," Dickson said.

“Silver and gold miners produced words used by Twain along with river boat captains," he added.

Others who expanded the language include Harriet Beecher Stowe who introduced the phrase, “sold down the river,” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Aldous Huxley with the word "agnostic," O. Henry with the term “Banana Republic,” and Charles Dickens with "doormat."

Dickson described the origins of Starbucks coffee franchise. The second mate in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was named Starbuck.

A discussion during the question and answer session seemed to center on today’s alteration of nouns into verbs, "accessorize" and "disrespect" to name two.

Dickson indicated that it seemed to come down to the basis of communication as to whether the words stick or not. With that, Bill Hickman of the NPC's Book & Author Committee, who introduced Dickson, presented him with the Press Club mug. In other words Dickson was mugorized.