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Thursday, July 16, 2009

John Milton, Ace Neologist

John Crace writes:

To many scholars he is still the sublime English poet. To the rest of us, he's the blind bloke who wrote the scarily long and difficult epic about heaven, hell and the failure of the English revolution we were made to read at school. But John Milton, whose 400th birthday is celebrated this year, deserves to be remembered for rather more than Paradise Lost. Step aside Martin Amis, Will Self et al; Milton is in a league of his own for neologisms.

According to Gavin Alexander, lecturer in English at Cambridge university and fellow of Milton's alma mater, Christ's College, who has trawled the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for evidence, Milton is responsible for introducing some 630 words to the English language, making him the country's greatest neologist, ahead of Ben Jonson with 558, John Donne with 342 and Shakespeare with 229. Without the great poet there would be no liturgical, debauchery, besottedly, unhealthily, padlock, dismissive, terrific, embellishing, fragrance, didactic or love-lorn. And certainly no complacency.

link: John Crace on Milton's contribution to the english language | UK news | The Guardian


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