Today is the day a certain set of language and literature fans celebrate Mr. Geoffrey Chaucer, who died 612 years ago today. Not only was Old Chaucey a pretty compelling writer (and in Middle English to boot!), but also, he was far better at coining words and phrases than the rest of us amateur portmanteau-chasers. As tweeted by the Oxford English Online, the word cloud below showcases a few of his contributions to the English language, among them, twitter, womanhood, fattish, caterwaul, sluttish, poppet, dotard, and crude.
As they explain further by tweet, "
#Chaucer provides our earliest ex. of twitter, verb: of a bird: to utter a succession of light tremulous notes; to chirp continuously." On their Oxford Words blog they add that though Chaucer is frequently considered "the venerable but crude uncle of English poetry, always ready with an inappropriate story, quite likely, even when it seems as if his tale can’t get any funnier or more scurrilous"—that bawdy poet our high school English teachers assigned us to read—he was much more.
Dryden dubbed him ‘the Father of English Poetry,' and while it's debatable whether he really did invent English poetry as we know it, Chaucer remains considered one of the formidable, formative masters of English language and literature. He's the man behind expressions like "Love is blind," "Love conquers all," "Time and tide wait for no man," and "shaking like a leaf" or, Right as an aspen lefe she gan to quake. Also, “Marriage is a wonderful invention; but, then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.” Like Shakespeare, he was unafraid to play with words, and to create new ones: "There are around 2,000 words for which the works of Chaucer currently provide evidence of first use in the Oxford English Dictionary. Just over half of these borrowings are from French or Latin roots (mostly French), almost all the rest are new formations based on existing English words," they write. We still use quite a lot of those words today, tweeting or not, and others are just kind of great: messagery, mishappy, whippletree, corny, poop, Martian, bodkin, bragget, vulgar, snort, scissors, and more.
Ah, Chaucer. The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.