The Top Ten: Invented words

  • @johnrentoul

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”.

Next week: Great buildings.

Coming soon: Horrible buildings. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to