Dateline: Poopsburg

Last night, Iain and I were having a conversation about 19th century literature (whatever, we're nerds!), which inevitably came around to Charles Dickens, and as we debated the merits of his work (Position Iain: He tends to go on a bit; Position Liss: Much of his work was written as serials for the newspaper, so he's better read a chapter a night before bed than in multiple-hour sessions; Position Iain: Good point!), I noted that one of the things I loved most about Dickens is his playfulness with language.

I have not read Knud Sørensen's Charles Dickens: Linguistic Innovator, but I have always meant to get my hands on a copy of it. Sørensen identified more than a thousand (!) neologisms coined by Dickens.

And Dickens was a master of the eponym. Next time you call someone stingy a scrooge or someone sanctimonious a pecksniff, tip your hat to Mr. Dickens. In fact, next time you chuckle at "Benjamin H. Grumbles" or "Butch Pornstache," consider the source of that humor lies in Dickensian eponyms. (Dickensian eponym—how meta!)

All of which is a very long way of saying I love Dickens because he invented words. When I was a wee thing, writing "books" on scrap paper and stapling them together and selling them to my grandparents for 10¢ apiece, if I couldn't think of a word I liked, I made one up.

(Sometimes I would later learn that I hadn't made up a word, but had merely just used an existent word that was then beyond my child's vocabulary. I was very proud of "grumping" until I discovered it in my dictionary.)

I recall being teased about using a "made-up word" in middle school, and of later learning that Dickens and Shakespeare were linguistic rebels, and of slowly coming to understand that new language and ideas about social justice—especially conveyed via humor or satire—were inextricably linked. I wasn't weird; I was part of a tradition!

When Space Cowboy asked as a Question of the Day what sniglets we've coined, I noted: "Basically, half my vocabulary is comprised of sniglets. Which is only right, given that I'm Shakespeare's Sister, and Shakespeare was the original snigleteer." The Shaxicon (more meta!) is thus full of my silly neologisms (wev, testerical, clusterfucktastrophe, fatsronauts, misogysaur, misogybag, homomentum, fauxgressive, douchehound, Apatowcalypse...), and will no doubt continue to be routinely restocked with all manner of absurd (and occasionally meaningful) eponyms, portmanteaus, and neologisms of various stripes.

Which means it was really only a matter of time before "Poopsburg" ended up in the New York Times.

What a great day for America!

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