Invented Words

Thanks to Paul Dickson for this collection. His book Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers has just been published by Bloomsbury. To a word nerd (a word that first appeared in 1950 in Dr Seuss’s If I Ran the Zoo, in which Gerald McGrew wants “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too…”, for his collection) it is a delight.

  1. Blurb Gelett Burgess created a character called Belinda Blurb, who enthused about a book of his on its jacket in 1907.
  2. Brainwashing First used by Edward Hunter in a report for Miami Daily News in 1950.
  3. Boredom One could be a bore before 1852, but it was Charles Dickens in Bleak House who gave us an English word for ennui.
  4. Cyberspace First used by William Gibson in a short story in 1982, it became popular after reappearing in his sci-fi novel Neuromancer in 1984.
  5. Chortle Coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass, 1871, a blend of chuckle and snort.
  6. Gobbledegook Invented by Maury Maverick, a Democratic Congressman from Texas, who banned it in a memo in 1944: “Anyone using the words activation or implementation will be shot.”
  7. Oxbridge Originally it was a fictional university in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Pendennis, 1848. Later used to describe Oxford and/or Cambridge.
  8. International First used by Jeremy Bentham in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789.
  9. Stereotype Initially a printing plate, first used by Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion, 1922, to mean a simplified idea of character.
  10. Scientist Coined by William Whewell, replacing “philosopher”, in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 1840. He also invented “physicist”.



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