« Mon meilleur ouvrage c'est toi, mon cher enfant ! » ~Alexandre Dumas Père
How authors from Dickens to Dr Seuss invented the words we use every day
The English language didn't just spring from nowhere. So who introduced such gems as cojones, meme, nerd and butterfingers?
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 June 2014 19.00 BST
Wordsmiths: Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway are all the surprising sources of some of our everyday words. Photograph: Getty Images/Alamy/Sportsphoto Ltd - Allstar/Guardian montage
Charles Dickens used the term in his 1836 The Pickwick Papers (more properly called The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club): "At every bad attempt at a catch, and every failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as 'Ah, ah!—stupid'—'Now, butter-fingers'—'Muff'— 'Humbug'—and so forth."
A clumsy person, especially one who fails to hold a catch.
The result: timeless songs full of jangling guitars and giggling vocals and lyrics about being a lovesick butterfingers in a world of emotional icebergs.
But the butterfingers company boss Jerry Sanders later let them slip through his fingers.
Unfortunately I'm a butterfingers and grabbed the door latch when I got a hold and the door swung open, with me on it.
Originally this word meant to be decorated or covered with chintz, a calico print from India, or suggestive of a pattern in chintz. It was extended to mean unfashionable, cheap or stingy, coming from none other than Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, who wrote in a letter in 1851: "The effect is chintzy and would be unbecoming."
HANAMI, or cherry-blossom viewing, is jokingly referred to as the most popular spectator sport in Japan. In truth, the title belongs to baseball.
But “spectator” is a misnomer, because attending a baseball game in Japan involves active, enthusiastic participation.
a name that does not suit what it refers to, or the use of such a name:
It was the scruffiest place I've ever stayed in, so 'Hotel Royal' was a bit of a misnomer.
It's something of a misnomer to refer to these inexperienced boys as soldiers.
1(Especially of clothing or a colour) not flattering:a stout lady in an unbecoming striped sundress
MORE EXAMPLE SENTENCESSYNONYMS
2(Of behaviour) not fitting or appropriate; unseemly:it was unbecoming for a university to do anything so crass as advertising its wares