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tv   Book Discussion on Authorisms  CSPAN  May 17, 2014 8:00am-8:52am EDT

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[inaudible conversations] >> you are watching the tv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. ..
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>> in the 1930. you can visit us online for this weekend's schedule. >> booktv continues with paul dickson. he takes a look at the creation of words but -- by authors. this is about 50 minutes. >> thank you, barbara. this is a special treat with you here today. thank you. we actually did invent an authorism for our 450th birthday, 450th anniversary, and i did that by going to the editor-in-chief at merriam-webster, and they got the staff to come up with a name. whether that makes it in the dictionary or not, at least it made it in my book, and now it's on -- it will be shown elsewhere.
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this business of what gets in and what doesn't get in is a fascinating subject because a lot -- aaron mckeon once said words are simply a piece of communication, an element of communication and just because it's not in the dictionary doesn't mean it's not a word. she used to say you don't need a pedigree to be a dog. and so that's sort of the way to look at it. one thing i find that's really interesting is a lot of writers, especially contemporary writers, love to create their own words. my favorite example is calvin trillion, the humorist, and he actually crypted a couple words -- created a couple words. wonky is one, and the other is the buffalo chicken wings which were called before that spicy chicken wings, and when he wrote a book called "alice, let's eat," they became buffalo chicken wings because he fist had them in -- first had them in
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buffalo, new york. he was on a pilgrimage about food. when i was doing research on this book, i found that sinclair lewis would invent words, and then he'd send off letters to merriam-webster, and the letters are in files up there, and he'd come up with a word, one of his great words he thought he had created was titoaltarian which were the dries during prohibition, and then he had a robber baron that gave a lot of money to good things, and his favorite was kiplingo which was for rudyard kipling. and, of course, kipling had some really amazing words. one of his is the horrible racism which was carried for many years white man's burden. that was kipling, and that was his example of how, the kind of person he was. but on the brightest side, he
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invented the word with rookie which was a corruption of recruit, and recruit didn't rhyme for him, so rookie went in instead. but the thing about lewis was sort of to his chagrin, the two words he is credited with, there's, of course, babbitt, a character for a sort of philistine with money and no appreciation of the finer things in life, the arts and such, and, of course, shotgun wedding first appears in the writings of sinclair lewis. he needed a name for sort of a forced wedding in a rural setting, so shotgun wedding made it in. i tried a bunch of words, i probably tried about a hundred, and only two have stuck to the wall. maybe authorisms will stick, because that was created for this one. there's a phenomenon called a contrasted focused
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reduplication. that is you say was he talking about a book or a book-book? meaning is he talking about a physical book or an e-book, etc. grass or grass-grass, you know, meaning the difference between marijuana and lawn clipping. so one time i wrote in a book, i called these word-words. and now i've completely knocked contrasted focused reduplication out of the dictionary, and it's now in the newest edition of the oxford it is in there as a form of speech, word-word. [laughter] so it's, so tonight if you go and send some mail or some mail-mail. [laughter] so that's what that's called. but another one i created was with the help of some dictionary people was -- [inaudible] for place, the adjective for a person or a place where a person
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comes from like liverpuddlian who comes from liverpool. hoosier for indiana. and that sort of seems to be thinking. but the oxford english dictionary, a lot of people use that as the final arbiter of whether you've created a word or not. and it's interesting, if you go to the oxford english dictionary, i'm credited with three first uses, which means the oxford english dictionary says i was the first one to use it in the english language. now, they're fairly dubious. one i was, i'm credited with is waterpicked as a verb. in a little piece of fiction i once wrote, i said so and so woke up in the morning and waterpicked his teeth, and somehow they laid that one on me, and i have no respondent for it. they -- responsibility for it. they also laid on me strangelove
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an, and then there's another one for a body part turned into a verb which i'll probably not mention given the cameras are rolling. [laughter] and this is going out to a family audience. and i was crepted with that, and it -- credited with that, and it wasn't mine either. but phyllis richmond is an old friend of mine who's a writer, she was the food editor of "the washington post" for many years, and she is now hounded by the fact that she is credited world wide with creating the word or the phrase comfort food. and we had lunch one day to discuss this, and, of course, she was eating macaroni and or something -- [laughter] and she said it was all over the food industry when she wrote it in 91977, a piece in the post magazine, she talked about some restaurant specializing in comfort food which was bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, things made with ice cream and
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such. things that were the kind of cuisine you ate when you were feeling out of sorts. but she did say at lunch and she's really adamant about this that the one word she did create was ellaconnondros, she said she started using it in high school and occasionally put it in her column. it was an adjective that meant nothing, but nobody really challenged. she wants me to do everything i can to make sure that get going. gets going. what got me going on this thing was interesting. the oxford english dictionary, now that it's dimmingtized, you can -- digitized, you can sort of set it up to look for what you want. there's one way i could look through the oxford english dictionary and find out who are the great word creators, in other words, who created the most words in terms of first use, but also first use often
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reflects -- it's not a given, but it's a strong suggestion that that's where the term came from because they've spent hundred, over a hundred years trying to determine where it first be appears in fingerprint -- first appears in print. what's really interesting was i ran into who the great creators were of language, and number one was shakespeare, but number two was sir walter scott. and i said why, what about sir walter scott? and i got really sort of fascinated by scott. and i came to this really sort of beginning conclusion that what scott did was create this world, a world of chivalry and nobility and the lost causes and a world in which there were klans with a k. and what he was really creating was a world that had words in it like freelance and there were world in it like back of beyond or phrases. and then i stumbled upon
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something very interesting which is in mark twain in "life on the mississippi" attacks scott, and one of the things he later admits is one of the reasons he wrote king arthur's counter was to mock the world that scott had created. and twain goes almost overboard in this. but he claimed that scott had created a world or a nobility to death, a nobility of lost causes, a nobility of dying, you know, the graceful and courageous death that was a proximate cause of the civil war. and twain goes on for paragraphs showing why he thinks that the popularity of scott especially in the south was that powerful. and it rings true only in one sense, that the power of scott was amazing. i live in garrett park, maryland, and the man who
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started the town was garrett of the b and o railroad. the town was set up like a feudal village originally, and every street and every physical aspect of the town is from the novels of sir walter scott. and, of course, he had created, scott created this world with characters like robin hood and the sheriff of notingham, and, of course, ivanhoe and the whole business. i got interested in twain, and twain claimed in his lifetime he never created a word. hard-boiled, which is one that's on cover. but twain and brett hart were actually fascinating in the sense that they created, twain said i got all these words. they're the words that are, you know, attributed to twain are things like peter out, grubsteaks, blow-up in the sense of the emotional blow-up, bonanza, etc., etc. and twain said he got all this new language from being on the
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mississippi, but also the mines of nevada and california where he got a huge amount of this slang. he said the most powerful slang he'd ever seen came off the the mines. out of the mines. and, you know, the gold rush and such. and the more i looked at dickens, i realized dickens had world that he created. his world was the world of sort of the low life. dickens had this ability to see, you know, there's the slang of old bailey, of the cockney accents of the slums of london and paris, and you see in dickens that dickens wasn't a great creator of language, but he was one who picked up the language of the people, of the places that he'd been. i mean, cockney, i'm sorry, sandwich boards is one of his. he creates this word for the people that walked around with a sign on the front and the back. that was one of his. he also does door mat as a metaphor for people who are
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walked on. in other words, he was a door mat meaning he let people walk all over him. but dickens' great, sort of the great creations of dickens are words like name of people, scrooge as a character, sort of a bad spirit around the time of the holidays, you know, somebody is a scrooge. my favorite one is podsnapery. that was his word for self-satisfied philistines named after mr. podsnap, somebody who, you know, i don't like modern art, you know, that kind of thing. but just to say it to show how they weren't going to accede to the mass as and everybody else. masses and everybody else. but i, the other one i got really intrigued me in this whole, same vein was john milton. and milton is creating a world
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of heaven and hell for paradise lost. so the words that he creates are things like pandemonium, which he creates as sort of the dwelling place of the evil spirits, of the demons and the devil. and it's really a city in his, the way he envisions it, as sort of an olympus of demons. the other phrase he came up with which is wonderful is it shows up in paradise lost which is all hell broke loose, which is one that he came up with. satanic is his. and so in a lot of ways milton had a sort of phenomenal ability to do this stuff, come up with language. lovehorn is his -- lovelorn is his, infin tuesday, earth shaking. he's also the first one to use space in reference to that which is above us, that is the heavens. before that space sort of was the distance between two people or two cities, but space to him became the heavens. and earth shaking is the kind of
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thing that he saw as part of the way he was creating this world. so another one, again, i think the most prolific and the most interesting writers are the ones who create a language that go along with the world that they're in. and so i think of maybe the most powerful modern writer is george orwell who creates a language of totalitarianism, but, you know, he comes up with double think. and even the word 1984, the phrase, title of his book, is sort of a metaphor for what was gonna go wrong with the world in terms of totalitarianism. and he also, you know, in news speak that suffix, speak to say, you know, use that as a way of introducing a new$)/xí/grñ lang, that's his as well from that. and the other dystopian, of course, is --
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[inaudible] brave new world. brave new world's a wonderful title and a concept and a phrase because it comes out of shakespeare, and the inside joke of brave new world is the first thing that the people in this totalitarian state in oxley's totalitarian states is they ban the works of shakespeare. so it's a double, it's a double hook there. james fenimore cooper, a lot of terms in here by cooper. cooper was the first one to really write about the american indian and the native american. and he invents a whole language more them which it's not -- some people said it's demeaning, but it's his attempt to get at their culture. he creates words like war paint, firewater, happy hunting ground for their sort of heaven or the other life of the americanç indian. and cooper has a marvelous sense more this. if you reread it, i reread for
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this book i reread last of the mohicans, and he's basically, he's not den dating the indian -- denigrating the indian. i think he's trying to interpret their culture the best he can. and the europeans deeply appreciated cooper. cooper was probably the most popular writer of his time in europe because the people in europe were understanding or at least trying to understand the culture that we were vanquishing at that point. we were taking over them. he had a nice, cooper also had a nice phrase, one of the things i liked in the early writing about john paul jones he talks about the right stuff. he says jones had the right stuff. he said he had courage, he was this, he was that. and, of course, tom wolf comes around and wants to write about the astronauts, and he goes back to cooper and says "the right stuff." the other one, of course, that's a lot of fun to play with is
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herman melville who's creating another world, a world at sea, you know, a world of moby dick and such. and moby dick is sort of fun because be it sort of became for a long, long time, still to this day sort of for something outrageously large and a metaphor for something large and important. and he got it from the name of a real albino whale called moca dick, and he just changed it to moby dick. [laughter] what's interesting about moby dick is within ten -- this is why google maps is fun -- there's a suture shi place, and on wisconsin avenue there is the moby dick house of kebab. [laughter] the other great story about the language of moby dick, when they started this coffee company out
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of the west coast, there was a big group of guys got together and wanted to start this coffee company, and they had a name picked out. a guy named howard schultz came in and said you guys really don't want to call a coffee shop pequot. the first syllable was offputting for coffee. do you have any other names from melville, and some people said starbuck was the first mate, he said, that's it, starbucks. so every time i drive down the street i say, well, there's another pequot. [laughter] melville had these strange words, people who were isolated from other people. part of the crew he regarded as isolatos. and harriet beecher stowe, again, she creates uncle tom's cabin, and, of course, we know what happened to the term uncle
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tom over time. there was an element where it became a pejorative. but she also had this wonderful sense of metaphor that she uses in the week. in the book. so when she talks about an end slaved person being sold down the river, she was talking about somebody who was probably in upper mississippi and most probably a household slave. and somebody who might have cooked or taken care of the children or something. but if the owner of this person sold the person to somebody down the river, it meant they were going to become field slaves, they were going to work out in the fields, in the horror of the fields. so being sold down the river in that book was literally being sold into a deeper, darker form of enslavement. i could go on about the different people, but i, just
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for a little bit, for a few minutes, and we're doing pretty well on time, pick out a couple of my favorites. there are a lot in the book. it's what they call -- the name of one writer gave it was the sweet click of coinage where a writer is writing and they come up with just the right phrase, just the right turn. even though when you come up with -- so one of my favorites is agnostic, and that was t.h. huxley. and huxley really got sick. he was a scientist, and he really got sick of people calling him an atheist when, in fact, he budget. and he said -- he budget. he wasn't. he had to create a name that budget a religious person, a god-fearing person, and he came up with agnostic. and the book, the word took off literally overnight. franklin pierce adams, one of my favorite humorist writers, he came up with the term aptronym which is for names of people whose names reflected who they
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were. and one of his -- like olga tumblova as a ballerina. and there was a professor at annapolis, his name was d.c. current. [laughter] then there's banana republic which was o'henry's term for sort of a dictatorial mace that sort of had -- place that sort of had only one crop or one mineral, and they were -- and, of course, he's down there hiding from the police because he was accused of stealing money from a bank, of embezzlement. co-ed is a real out of place one, and that east louisa may alcott. one of the boys said he didn't like co-you would dining -- co-you would dining. -- co-ed
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dining. the other one that's on the cover that i just love is the fist writer, i found some -- it may have been used a little bit before, but the very first writer of the use of the word "baseball" is -- what am i -- [inaudible] we'll go back to that in a second. so there are these wonderful words that sort of come out of the blue. another one that i really like is dragon lady. and that was in a 1946 comic strip, and it's just wonderful because -- but he said, the line was he said you're no mongolian princess, you're the dragon lady. and so that -- [laughter] factoid is fun to play with because that was norman mailer's creation. and mailer said that it was
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really for a small falsehood, something that was repeated often that was untrue like nine out of ten small businesses fail during the first year or something like that that's repeated millions of times but has never been proven and is almost invariably untrue. but almost immediately factoid became a victim of its own definition, and people are now using it to mean small fact, inaccurate things. the first meaning in the dictionary is a falsehood, the second meaning is a truth, a small truth. so it's a wonderful thing. and poor norman mailer, blame him for that one. there's a mystery section over here, little bit. very close. but -- [inaudible] was a wonderful one that ida nash created murder mongress for agatha christie. and it was used in a poem to
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rhyme with library of congress. who dun it was a guy named donald gordon, a critic in 1930. and, of course, little gray cells for the brain matter for perot, that was agatha christie. one that's a lot of fun to talk about is, this was ben bradley's term. i see joe smiling back there. it means, it's an old term, but ben bradley brought it into the 20th century. it means urinating backwards. [laughter] and it describes certain ants and certain insects and things. and he was in a big battle with a guy named reed irvine. and they were sort of coming up with insults for one another, and he used this for irvine who ran accuracy media at that time. irvine got the last laugh, because he ended up using that to raise a lot of money, or at least according to one of the accounts that i read, that it
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was useful to him. but it proves also you can sometimes bring out a word that was once, that died out of the language but he brought it up again. gobbledygook was maury maverick who was a new deal congressman, and it was meant to describe the language of washington which sort of sounded like, you know, a turkey gobbling. i love catch 22 because catch 22 may be among the best ever book titles, and the ironic thing about it was it was about to be released at catch 18, but there was a book called mile 18, so they had to pull it back and change the name to catch 22. the world now knows what catch 22 which is sort of the catch-all of bureaucratic and military life. in order to get out of the service, you've got to prove
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you're crazy, but if you prove you're crazy, it means you're sane and can't get out of the service. [laughter] it's a nice piece of business.
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>> a little over 17,000 words. milton hadn't come along, milton wasn't born until shakespeare
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was quite old. but shakespeare himself, people have claimed that he has invented as many as 3,000 words. and the most current estimates are that he invented 1700. is and i did a lot of work with this. i worked with the head of the shakespeare guild of america, i worked with several people who really were shakespeare experts, did a lot of reading about word creation in shakespeare. it's probably more likely that he created about 6 or 700. but the things that he does create are, i mean, even terms like household words is his. he was also one of the first guys to really do a lot of changing of nouns to verbs. friending was his, believe it or not. it's in hamlet, you can look it up. lackluster was his. he was also really good at sort of these world is my oyster metaphors. past is prologue was his. his term for the copulatory act was the beast with two backs.
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he had some wonderful things. he's also credited with some simple words like critical. there was minute actually wrote that it was impossible to describe even a sporting event without using words introduced by shakespeare, buzzer, negotiate, undervalue, juiced, olympian, manager. those are all his. moonbeam is his, subcontract is his. but the people that have gone over, i think the accurate number that he actually created of words is probably about 600. on to top of that there were soe very nice phrases that he came up with. all's well that ends well is a wonderful, you know, it was the name of a play, and, of course, yogi berra stole it for it ain't over til it's over. i guess if i had to pick one i thought was probably the most clever, i'd just have to go back to milton.
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milton's language was just, i think, remarkable, dimensionless, liturgical, bannered,er radiance, terrific. these were all milton's words, and i think shakespeare still wins on the word count, but i think some of the words they give to shakespeare are, they don't ring true. leapfrog. he uses leapfrog a couple times in his play metaphorically talking about somebody leapfrogging over something. and my feeling is that that was probably -- he was probably the first one to write it down, but that the word actually existed in as a children's game. because imagine yourself in the globe theater, and he uses the term leapfrog. there would be puzzlement. there would be as if every fifth word with id was some puzzlement to you. it was coming out of some
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klingon or something. so a lot of the words were words shakespeare picked up in the street, picked up from the very people that he was writing for. and in my mind a word like leapfrog probably was a children's game, but nobody had ever written about it, and shakespeare knew that his audiences would understand he was taking it from the the name of an actual gail in which kids -- game in which kids jumped over each other's backs to the metaphorical use of it as somebody jumping over somebody else in a conceptual way. so that was one of his nice ones. jane austen, i had one of those moments where you forget. the baseball thing with jane austen. jane austen, i'll finish with the -- go back to that. i leavitt it open. -- left it open. on the cover we've got jane austen, and the word she created was baseball. she writes it in 1798 or '99. this isn't published until 817, but she writes it right at the
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end of the 1700s. and it's about a girl. she writes about a girl who had preferred to play in the fields, to chase birds, play baseball rather that read her books. and so here she is, the first use of baseball in the english language -- or at least literary use -- written as we write it today probably referring to some very early bat and ball game that was played in england. but as the book was going to press and we got it in, somebody discovered an earlier use in a newspaper by a couple of years. so i'm resting my case on the fact that she was the one that put it in language. i have also on the cover shakespeare with bedazzled which is a wonderful -- that was one of the most powerful things that shakespeare, one of those wonderful words that he created: and, of course, you've got twain with hard-boiled which is just a nice formation. so that's sort of what i came to
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talk about. this is a lot of fun. people are coming to me as we speak. i've had several writers write to me, hey, you left my word out of the book. one of the writers in this room, joe golden, is here. joe created the term superlawyer which you can read all the details of in the book, but this was a term that still rings with tremendous power in washington. before joe there were lawyers and lawyers, now there are superlawyers. which has been -- and the full story is told in the book. and i've discovered a couple since i finished the book. one of my favorites, i was doing some research on prohibition, and "the boston globe" had a contest. this wasn't an author, but it was in the newspaper. "the boston globe" -- i'm sorry, the boston herald had a contest to see who could come up with a word for all these americans who were making fun of the prohibition on liquor and actually having cocktail parties and things as a sign of sort of
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honor, you know, in the midst of all of this. and first prize was scofflaw. and that was made up by some guy writing into the paper saying that's what we should call these people, scofflaws. but he did it with a certain anger in his voice, you know, the writing that was meant to put these people in their place. what happened was within a week the speakeasies were making a drink called the scofflaw. [laughter] now, that was not in the book. that'll be in some other excerpt. but i'd love to hear questions and thoughts and attacks, whatever. [laughter] >> i think we've got one microphone this afternoon here in the middle of the room. if people could come to microphone, please. can you copyright, can an author copyright a word? >> people have tried to. they trademark, trademark is what you do. threepeat was trademarked, i believe. there are a couple that have been trademarked, but it's very hard to actually, you know, copyright the word itself.
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>> when it's a term you can, when it's a title of something like starbucks is a trademark. >> yeah. yeah. that's true. >> i was one of those superlawyers. >> okay. well, there's joe. >> but i don't look like one. so did you talk -- i was late because i met somebody downstairs, did you talk about the king james bible? >> no. >> okay. >> no. because i was focusing really on the actual writers -- that's a whole other book, and there have been several books on -- >> because of the translation. >> yeah, yeah. >> it refers important translation. not the first one, but the first translation from latin into english. >> right, right. this was meant as a whimsy -- >> ah. >> this was meant as an exercise in recreational linguistics which is what i -- >> what you do. >> what i aspire to. language as a play thing. it's, i mean, if you look at
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english, i mean, there's two -- if you're drowning, you don't want to be clever, you want to just yell help. so there's this basic element of language. but there was a time at which people figured out that language was recreational, so they invented the scrabble board, and they invented the crossword puzzle, and they invented -- oh, how could i have forgotten? dorothy parker invents knock-knock jokes. ah. >> the algonquin round table where all these famous writers and, you know, music conductors would sit around, and they decided one time at lunch that they would try to create a new form of humor. and so they all got their assignment for the week, the next meeting of the algonquin round table was to come back with a new form of humor. and so they go around the table, and dorothy parker says, i got with it, let's call it the --
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she said, knock knock and somebody said who's there? and she said ether, and they said ether who, and she said ether bunny wants some eggs. [laughter] and lopez, the orchestra guy there, writes this sort of very off-color knock-knock song which is immediately banned from the radio because they're all double entendres. i wrote it for things like knock knock jokes. in fact, my favorite, william sapphire, who i knew, the late william sapphire, his favorite was knock knock -- >> who's there? >> am ril lis. >> am ril lis who? >> am ril lis agent, want to buy this place? [laughter] so i didn't get into the king james bible, and there are a couple -- i didn't get into the really serious language. a playpen for me. >> when you do the next edition,
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you should have another category for authors' names. what we remember about orwell is not new speak, but orwellian. >> oh, orwellian, yes. >> which has become the term for don quixote and quixotic. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> hi, paul. i wonder this about all your books, and that is how you possibly research all those authors and what words they may have come up with versus somebody else. i mean, what's the process that you actually use to research? >> there are a couple things. one is the oxford english dictionary and the other dictionaries which have been digitized. that gives great help. and the other thing is newspapers are now being digitized, and so are databases. there are proprietary databases which the library of congress, there's one called 19c which is a monster database of everything
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in the english from the 19th century. broadsides, magazines, books, pamphlets. and 19c, i think the first year cost $30,000, so you're not going to get it -- you're going to probably have to be in an ivy league college or somewhere like that. but these databases, so if somebody says to you the word something or either was not invented until 1920 and you go back in the day -- database and you find it in the 19th century, you can start to show that. i did another book a while back called words from the white house. and the one that really threw me on that was that warren g. harding created the term founding fathers. and i actually had people at the library of congress, because i said i can't believe nobody uses founding fathers to refer to the people who created the constitution. and lo and behold, we could not find an earlier use. so the databases allow you to do
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sort of a negative search. state of the union wasn't used until roosevelt called it that in '34 before it was the report to congress. so a lot of it -- >> would you say without these databases and digitization that a book like this couldn't be done? >> oh, it could be done, but you would rely on, you would rely on claims of people, research other people had done. all of this with shakespeare, the real early work on this is still quite valid. and the early work on where he came from. there's huge, there are three-volume books, three volumes of writing by a couple of professors in the university of missouri on where, about twain's language. and, again, they come to the same conclusion that i mentioned earlier, that he culled this stuff up from other people. he didn't coin it, he collected it. >> okay, thanks.
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>> i might have missed it, but you mentioned moby dick restaurant? what is your explanation? because we've seen one in lebanon in the mountains. >> it, there's one in cape cod. there's a moby dick there. there's probably -- some photographer really wanted to do sort of a stark sort of thing and go around the world taking pictures of all the moby dick places. [laughter] but it's, it's funny how things get named because sometimes something -- i live in garrett park, and the restaurant there is called the plaque market, and the gym that i -- black market, and the i didn't gym that i wora called the sweatshop. black market and sweatshop had a certain negative impact. [inaudible conversations] finish. >> i understand, yes. but that -- and the sweatshop because you go there and sweat, but again, it's the misnomer.
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i mean, i remember the whole thing with where i call -- the word i invented was pun stores. and so the first airport in the old days before you went on the expressway, there was a beauty parlor called o' hair outside the airport. so the pun store is another important -- [laughter] so anybody here invented a word that they want to talk about? joe, would you? >> [inaudible] >> okay. dicksonary. that's going to be a book made up just of words by friends of mine. >> paul, aisle flipping through -- i'mç flipping throuh this, but this is d.h. lawrence in italy, and in here he refers
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to a group of people who he calls the redskins and in very, very favorable terms. so the redskins are the, he calls them the redskins because i can't remember what the favorable term is that he, what their characteristic is, but i thought maybe dan snyder could use this -- >> that would be -- [laughter] the gentleman here. >> your prolific writing over the decades, i'm curious way back when what inspired you to enjoy and play with language, you know? was this something your parents gave you as a gift, a model? where did your word play and word playpen begin? >> thank you for that question because it's sort of fun to answer. when i was a kid, i was sort of a wise guy, and i, you know, and
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i collected stuff like postage stamps and baseball cards and things that other things collected, but i also early on collected words. and they just sort of became a way of sort of getting an extra little edge on things. i'll fast forward. just one of the things about, you know, kids and words, and it was -- i don't know, i just loved, and there'd be times i'd just hear a word, and i couldn't get it out of my head. i remember nancy, my wife, here one time we were up in maine, and i bought an old, old dictionary. and that was one of the great, defining moments. and she opens it up, and there's a word in there called tyromancy, and this is one of those things that changed my life, i think, because it meant examining the future -- determining the future by examining cheese. [laughter] and it was, and in the old days there were all these different ways of defining, i think
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aereomancy was defining the future by watching a barnyard fowl peck at grain. and i had this immediate vision of this sage, you know, with a big piece of cheese looking at the bubbles and saying, aha, you're going to marry the girl down the street or something. [laughter] and so, and i remember another time i was in a cab in, boy, where -- i guess it was new york, and a guy -- i was going to the airport, and the guy was a carnival worker part of the year. and he started talking about hard flash. and i said what is hard flash? he said hard flash is like a horse, a pal me know -- palomino horse with a clock in its belly, and teenage boys will spend all their money winning one of these pieces of hard flash. the idea that something wasser resistible to a teenage boy and he wanted to give it to his girlfriend was called hard flash. so the whole business of language has always been a delight to me. and one of the good things, one
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time our younger son who's not here today because he's walking the ap haven chan trail, alex, one night i had said something to him, and he said, dad, you're such a hypocrite. and i remember saying to myself, my god, not only is he write, but it was the perfect word, you know? if he'd sworn at me or called me a goofus or something, i would have, yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughter] it hurt, but it also was like -- because i was a hypocrite, you know? [laughter] so, and, you know, when i was a kid, i used to love to do double talk -- [inaudible] so, yeah, i would do that and people would say what did he just say? and it's a great toy. i think one of the things we have in english is this wonderful thing, we can get outranged because somebody -- outraged because somebody turns a word into a verb, the language
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police get all upset. but it's great fun. >> i think i saw in some of the introductory literature for this talk that you also focus on words from sports. if that's true, could you give us a little intro into authorisms from the sports world? >> well, we've got slam dunk in here. and we had rookie from -- i mostly write about baseball language and did a baseball, wrote a baseball dictionary, and a lot of the terms in there are from sports writers. the writers and the radio people. catbird seat which was a red barbarism. red barber. [laughter] he created catbird seat. but he didn't really. he calculator -- that was somebody -- he later, that was like the dodgers are sitting in the catbird seat tonight. the pitcher's throwing magnificent stuff. but barber later was pressed,
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and he had all these numbers terms he came up with, and he was later pressed, and he said he won it in a poker game. he had a bunch of others. rhubarb was his. and he later said rhubarb, meaning a dustup, an argument, a face to face, you know, the umpire and a guy like leo derose your would be involved in a rue wash, and -- rhubarb, and he said it was from crowd noises in a theater. three guys were supposed to be a crowd in a play, and they'd go rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. and that was the word they'd use to make crowd noise. but don't get me started on words in sports. [laughter] chic herndone, he did slam dunk. that's almost taken over for as a metaphor for success. >> we have time for one more question if we have one. do we have one from the audience?
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[inaudible] >> do i speak a foreign -- one time in my life i spoke pretty good spanish, but, no, i'm pretty much wedded to the one. [laughter] for the moment. >> because that's a lot of fun. >> yeah, it is. no, it is. >> [inaudible] >> catbarreled seat is just -- catbird seat is, nobody really knows, but it's a place of where you want to be. it's being in charge. >> i know what it means, i just don't know what it is. >> oh, i don't know. nobody knows. [laughter] no, it just sounds good. >> oh. >> it's a metaphor would want a phor. [laughter] >> okay, thank you, paul. [applause] >> that was wonderful. okay, books are for sale. paul dickson will sit up here and sign cope -- copies of his book. thanks for coming. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> for more information, visit the author's web site, >> here are some programs to look out for this weekend. today, we're live from the


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