I've recently returned from a four day trip, during which I had time finally to read the 900 pages of my paperback copy of Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. I have kept that book on my shelf since the 1960s, primarily to be able to cite the many references to Joe ("the fat boy") as an example of obstructive sleep apnea. It's quite a remarkable first novel, written at age only 24 (am I the only person who reflexly pictures Dickens as an old man, even though he didn't start out so?) I'll defer the sleep apnea references for now in order to share some other observations from the book.
The etymology of "fall" as a season seems intuitive, but I've never seen the term fleshed out in full detail like this:
"My uncle's great journey was in the fall of the leaf, at which time he collected debts..." (from "the story of the bagman's uncle" in chapter 49).The term reportedly came to denote the season in 16th century England, as a contraction of Middle English expressions such as "fall of the leaf."
This was the first time I've seen the word "fellow" used as an insult (chapter 15):
"And if any further ground of objection be wanting," continued Mr. PIckwick, "you are too fat, sir."One dictionary lists this as a secondary definition: "A man without good breeding or worth; an ignoble or mean man."
"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, "this is an insult."
"Sir," replied Mr. Pickwick in the same tone, "it is not half the insult to you that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet jacket with a two-inch tail would be to me."
"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, "you're a fellow."
"Sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "you're another!"
Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare...
The phrase "... man is fire and woman tow" implies that "tow" is flammable material. I found it listed as a secondary meaning: "An untwisted bundle of fibers such as cellulose acetate, flax, hemp or jute.
Other new words (for me):
Conversable disposed to converse; sociable.
Wharfinger the owner or manager of a wharf.
Chummage payment made by prisoner to induce roommate to vacate a shared cell.
Jorum large vessel for drinking usually alcoholic beverages (cf. jeroboam, jar).
Pipkin three legged cooking pot of earthenware or metal.
Srub alternative form of “shrub” = a drink of fruit juice and spirits (<shrub=liquor).
Somerset somersault (<French somber (“over”) + salt (“jump”)).
Rampacious rampageous (<rampage, orig Scottish); violent and boisterous.
Imperence colloquial form of impertinence.
blucher leather half-boot or high shoe (from Prussian Field-Marshal von Blucher).
Embedded image scanned by Philip V. Allingham and posted at The Victorian Web.