mr. lew
The top 10 words invented by writers

‘Authorisms’ – neologisms coined by authors which have entered the wider language – have been enriching English for centuries.

From Shakespeare to Joseph Heller, Paul Dickson selects his favourites

1. Banana Republic

A politically unstable, undemocratic and tropical nation whose economy is largely dependent on the export of a single limited-resource product, such as a fruit or a mineral. The pejorative term was coined by O Henry (William Sidney Porter) in his 1904 collection of short stories entitled Cabbages and Kings.

2. Beatnik

This one was created by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen in his column of April 2, 1958 about a party for “50 beatniks.” Caen was later quoted, “I coined the word ‘beatnik’ simply because Russia’s Sputnik satellite was aloft at the time and the word popped out.”

3. Bedazzled

To be irresistibly enchanted, dazed or pleased A word that Shakespeare debuts in The Taming of the Shrew when Katharina says: “Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes, that have been so bedazzled with the sun that everything I look on seemeth green.” Several of the websites that track the Bard’s words have, in recent years, commented on the fact that a commercial product called The Be Dazzler had come on the market and was taking some of the shine from the word. The Be Dazzler is a plastic device used to attach rhinestones to blue jeans, baseball caps and other garments. One site commented: “A word first used to describe the particular gleam of sunlight is now used to sell rhinestone-embellished jeans. “

4. Catch-22

The working title for Joseph Heller’s modern classic about the mindlessness of war was Catch-18, a reference to a military regulation that keeps the pilots in the story flying one suicidal mission after another. The only way to be excused from flying such missions is to be declared insane, but asking to be excused for the reason of insanity is proof of a rational mind and bars being excused. Shortly before the appearance of the book in 1961, Leon Uris’s bestselling novel Mila 18 was published. To avoid numerical confusion, Heller and his editor decided to change 18 to 22. The choice turned out to be both fortunate and fortuitous as the 22 more rhythmically and symbolically captures the double duplicity of both the military regulation itself and the bizarre world that Heller shapes in the novel. (“’That’s some catch, that Catch-22’,” observes Yossarian. ‘It’s the best there is,’ Doc Daneeka agrees.’”) During the decades since its literary birth, catch-22, generally lower-cased, has come to mean any predicament in which we are caught coming and going, and in which the very nature of the problem denies and defies its solution.

5. Cyberspace

Novelist William Gibson invented this word in a 1982 short story, but it became popular after the publication of his sci-fi novel Neuromancer in 1984. He described cyberspace as “a graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system.

6. Freelance

i) One who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment to any of them. 

ii) An uncommitted independent, as in politics or social life . 

The word is not recorded before Sir Walter Scott introduced it in Ivanhoe which, among other things, is often considered the first historical novel in the modern sense. Scott’s freelancers were mercenaries who pledged their loyalty and arms for a fee. This was its first appearance: “I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them – I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”

7. Hard-Boiled

Hardened, hard-headed, uncompromising. A term documented as being first used by Mark Twain in 1886 as an adjective meaning “hardened”. In a speech he alluded to hard-boiled, hide-bound grammar. Apparently, Twain and others saw the boiling of an egg to harden the white and yolk as a metaphor for other kinds of hardening.

8. Malapropism

An incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance. This eponym originated from the character Mrs Malaprop, in the 1775 play The Rivals by Irish playwright and poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan. As you might expect, Mrs Malaprop is full of amusing mistakes, exclaiming “He’s the very pineapple of success!” and “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile!” The adjective Malaproprian is first used, according to the OED, by George Eliot. “Mr. Lewes is sending what a Malapropian friend once called a ‘missile’ to Sara.”

9. Serendipity

The writer and politician Horace Walpole invented the word in 1754 as an allusion to Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka. Walpole was a prolific letter writer, and he explained to one of his main correspondents that he had based the word on the title of a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The three princes were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not looking for.

10. Whodunit

A traditional murder mystery. Book critic Donald Gordon created the term in the July 1930 American News of Books when he said of a new mystery novel: “Half-Mast Murder, by Milward Kennedy – A satisfactory whodunit.” The term became so popular that by 1939, according to the Merriam-Webster website, “at least one language pundit had declared it ‘already heavily overworked’ and predicted it would ‘soon be dumped into the taboo bin.’ History has proven that prophecy false, and whodunit is still going strong.”

The $20 bill is more numerous by far than the $10 note, and the common currency of the ubiquitous A.T.M. For a woman to be put on the $10 note instead suggests women are of lesser worth, some people complained. Though several of those critics said wryly that the lesser note would aptly symbolize that women still earn less than men on average.

The bigger issue, however, turned out to be Hamilton versus Jackson. Many respondents asked: Why displace Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary and the architect of the American financial system, rather than eject Jackson from the $20 bill given his record of violence against Native Americans and opposition to national banking?

Treasury’s initial assurance that Hamilton would somehow remain on the $10 bill, presumably as a secondary figure, only provoked more objections. “If she is worthy of being on a bill, she is worthy of not sharing it,” a woman wrote on The New York Times’s Facebook page.

Just last week, Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, a state that is 9 percent Native American, sponsored a resolution calling for Jackson to be replaced by a woman because of Jackson’s “policies that forced thousands of American Indians off their ancestral homelands.”

A group called the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society began a social media campaign to #SaveHamilton on the $10 note. Rand Scholet, the group’s founder, said in an interview that while Treasury’s initiative “is very laudable,” the reaction among Hamiltonians is, “How can a current secretary of Treasury displace or diminish the first secretary of Treasury?”

The Treasury Department could not have anticipated that in the face of this dispute the musical “Hamilton” would become a Broadway smash, further elevating its subject. Mr. Lew took his wife to the show in August, for their anniversary, and met the cast backstage.

Women On 20s has proposed a compromise, supported by NOW, to keep Hamilton alongside a woman chosen by Treasury and change the opposite side of the $10 bill, replacing the image of the Treasury building with a vignette of nearly a dozen female historical figures.

“That’s not in lieu of having the prime territory, which is the portrait side,” Ms. Howard said. A woman’s portrait could replace Jackson’s the next time the $20 note is redesigned, she said.

Treasury officials continue to promote the $10 redesign, however. Besides relying on social media, emails and letters, Mr. Lew and Ms. Rios have held town hall meetings around the country and round tables with interested groups, including historians. Ms. Rios has mingled among tourists at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s “money factories” here and in Fort Worth soliciting opinions from scores at a time.

For more than 100 years, women have waited for a portrait of someone of their sex at the center of a paper note, a wait that appeared to be ending when Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced 10 months ago that he would choose a woman for a new $10 bill in development.

But then the fame of a striving immigrant from the West Indies named Alexander Hamilton achieved unlikely heights in the lights on Broadway more than 200 years after his untimely death. The first Treasury secretary, in the 18th century, Hamilton became a 21st-century rap-musical phenomenon, and a small coterie of history-minded Hamiltonians swelled by millions to include not just well-heeled adults shelling out up to thousands of dollars a ticket but teenagers rapping Hamilton’s life story at the dinner table.

Now Mr. Lew is leaning toward keeping Hamilton at the center of the $10 note and placing a vignette of female historical figures on the flip side.

But, in keeping with his announcement last June, Mr. Lew is expected to simultaneously announce that a woman will be front and center on the more numerous $20 notes — displacing the (currently) less popular Andrew Jackson — and that one or more women will be on the $5 bill as well. Mr. Lew’s own public hints in recent weeks have pointed in this direction.


Treasury and White House officials, including Mr. Lew, declined to comment for the record. But already speculation about the Treasury secretary’s decision has angered some of the women who have awaited it most intently, an online group called Women on 20s.

On Friday, its leaders issued a news release excoriating Mr. Lew: “Women on 20s considers it deeply disturbing that Secretary Lew would renege on his public commitment to prominently feature a single woman on the next new bill.”

“With this decision, Secretary Lew is proving, once again, that in America it’s still a man’s world,” they added. “It was a chorus of mostly men who implored him to keep Hamilton on the $10, and he listened.”

Indeed, it was Mr. Lew’s listening — not just to Hamiltonians, but to the unanticipated millions of Americans who responded to his June invitation to recommend a woman for the currency — that accounted for his missing his self-imposed December deadline. He was hearing a cacophony of conflicting opinions, mainly pitting some women’s groups against Hamiltonians.

Now leading the Hamiltonians, in effect, was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of “Hamilton,” who, in the words of the musical’s Hamilton, was not throwing away his shot. He pressed Mr. Lew to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill when the Treasury secretary and his wife saw the musical. Mr. Miranda recently said on Twitter that Mr. Lew indicated “Ham’s fans” would be happy with the ultimate decision.

Forsaken Anagrams

Because why do anything more productive with my time…

Ishamael – Ham Aisle (I don’t even know)

Lanfear – Real Fan (stalker, actually), and uh… Anal Ref (rofl)

Demandred – Dad Mender (what), Dead End Mr. (Lews would agree)

Graendal – Gala Nerd (snort), Dang Real (yo), Drag Elan (…)

Balthamel – Ballet Ham (what’s with the ham honestly), Lab Hamlet

Semirhage – Grease Him (…whom? I’m curious here), Harm Siege

Sammael – Lame Sam (well you are not wrong)

Moghedien – Hide Gnome (well she does), Edge Him On, End Him Ego

Asmodean – Mad Aeons (the name of his new emo band?), Soda Name

Aginor – A Groin (…yeah)

Mesaana – A Seaman 

Be’lal – Label (about as memorable as the Forsaken himself) 

And Rahvin produced no valid anagrams in English.