computer games: Jane Austen hits a home run

Share
Related Topics
Who would have thought it? Jane Austen playing baseball! Pardon my irrepressible obtrusiveness, but I've been consulting the Oxford English Dictionary on CD-Rom and it renders all other computer games obsolete. Could Nintendo tell me that Jane Austen was responsible for the first recorded use of the word "baseball" in English? (In Northanger Abbey - it's one of the things Catherine preferred to books.) Would Sonic the Hedgehog have known that Ms Austen gave us irrepressible, obtrusiveness and door-bell?

Finding a complete list of Jane Austen's neologisms is not one of the easiest things to do with the OED. I first had to create a file of all the Austen, Jane citations (all 1,093 of them), then whittle it down to manageable size by asking for words that had made their first appearance during her writing years. Then I looked at them one-by-one. An unmirthful task, but "unmirthful" was among the Austen innovations. "Double-bedded" was too, which brings us to our next topic.

Among the 279 references to Camilla, you will find "Most dulciloquent and incomparable Miss Camilla" from the New Monthly Magazine of 1840, and this curiously apposite quotation from Mudflats of Dead, written by G Mitchell in 1979: "Camilla wasn't the only predator... people are always changing their sleeping partners."

What I was really trying to do, however, before I became sidetracked by Jane and Camilla, was to carpenter together (the verbal sense of "carpenter" was first recorded in the works of Jane Austen, incidentally) something about the number 23, particularly the curious phrase "twenty-three skidoo".

I learnt, on the way, that, according to the 1965 BBC Handbook, Eurovision comprises 23 TV organisations in 18 different countries, and that according to Merivale, writing in 1865, the ancient Romans occasionally used to insert an intercalary month of 23 days.

Wilson (Amer. Ornith; 1814) is quoted as saying that "the edges of the upper and lower gibbosities have each 23 indentations, or strong teeth, on each side," and EL Brandreth (On Non-Aryan Lang; c1875-9) mentions that the Santali verb has 23 tenses.

Back on the trail of 23-skidoo (meaning scram! Get out of here!) - see SKIDOO v. 2b - Bloomfield (Language, 1933) "suspects that the queer slang use... arose in a chance situa- tion of sportsmanship, gambling, crime or some other rakish environment," but JF Kelly (Man with Grip, 1906) gives the answer: "Skidoo from skids and '23' from 23rd Street that has ferries and depots for 80 per cent of the railroads leaving New York."

Everything I wanted to know plus "gibbosities", "dulciloquent" and enough to pretend I have read all of Jane Austen. What more could one ask? A snip at pounds 495 plus VAT.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Inspection Inventory Clerk

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych  

Kim Sears: A woman at a sports event makes the front pages! Shame it’s for swearing and not participating

Alice Jones
Caroline Lucas from the Green Party with anti-fracking campaigners outside Parliament this week.  

Fracking can improve our energy security, create jobs and support the development of renewables

Corin Taylor
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee