Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Did some inquiries today on the phrase "...like the dickens," which dates back to Shakespeare and there Dickens, I learn, is originally just a euphemism for "the devil," which makes sense, given "what the deuce," etc. etc.

What precipitated this inquiry, however, was an odd attempt at the phrase rendered by my office manager, "I know you've been working like the Dickinson." It didn't immediately strike me as being a reference to the poet, certainly enough, though I have been working in seclusion most of the week, but rather as a mis-hearing...perhaps this woman extrapolated the phrase as being this early in life, maybe she just stutter-stepped and that's what came out.

In other news, I bought one book today purely based on the title; Agatha Christie's "By the Pricking of my Thumbs." The wise idea was to shelve it next to my copy of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (followed by my copy of Macbeth, probably, no doubt originally influenced by this lovely work. [Pity Yeats was lamenting the decline of royalism, though, and somewhat obsessed with this cyclical history-as-gyres business] Much to my chagrin, however, I find I do not seem to actually own a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, though I would have sworn I did.

The best laid schemes o' mice and men, I suppose...

7 comments:

Agnes said...

"chagrin"

Is that word ever used or is it just in the dictionary for people like me writing their thesis and wanting to impress their American supervisor, showing off how well the command of english as a foreign language is?

Reason for asking; it looks a lot like a Dutch word indicating someone extremely grumpy

The Earthtopus said...

I've never thought of it as so rare that its rarity is worth commenting on, but this is simply my very subjective impression. I wouldn't think it would raise eyebrows.

santoritimes said...

I say chagrin all the time.

And as a poor man's substitute for "something wicked this way comes" I suggest a copy of "Wicked" and "the Iceman Cometh." At a glance, it could work. But that's probably two books rather than one to buy.

Agnes said...

Everything raises an eyebrow to the non-native speaker seeking to improve... or something. I wouldn't even know how to pronounce the damn word, let alone be able to distinguish it, should someone actually say it to me.

Agnes said...

it's a word with potential, though

We use it as a noun, though

The Earthtopus said...

Chagrin is a noun. It's just also a verb. I think the verb is rarer, although the inflected form "chagrined" (as used above) doesn't seem unusual.

Agnes said...

Ah goody, now learn to pronounce it and I'm all set for insulting my unitmates, no?

Sorry for the annoying mood, but I've got reasons... and not the one you're thinking of!

and in my list of words I hate in English: predicament or however you spell that, for exactly that reason!