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English: Title page to Volume 1 of Good Words

English: Title page to Volume 1 of Good Words (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Interesting Literature

Often you hear, fifth-hand, someone say, ‘Shakespeare gave us the word puking’ or ‘Milton coined the word dreary’. The problem with this is, of course, that we cannot be sure that those writers actually invented these words – they may merely have written the texts containing the earliest surviving record of the words in question. (Or, there may be earlier uses of the words out there, waiting to be discovered; it’s just that more lexicographers and philologists are rereading As You Like It than are reading ‘A Treatise on Vomitting and Related Emettic Excurssions, 1588’.) Shakespeare may have been the first one to think of putting ‘leap’ and ‘frog’ together to form ‘leapfrog’; but wouldn’t his audience have wondered what the bally hell he was blathering on about? So, here are ten words which we can say, with some certainty, originated in works of literature. Enjoy.


1. Blatant. Used by Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-99) in…

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