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James Joyce

Bawways and smellsip: James Joyce’s English

‘Bloomsday’ is commemorated throughout the world on June 16, celebrating the day, in 1904, on which the action of James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses takes place.

The word cloud above showcases just a few of the contributions to the English language made by James Joyce in all of his works, not just Ulysses. From dreck to smellsip, all are examples of words where the current first quotation as given in the OED is from Joyce (some being used only by him, or in allusion to him). However, with the exception of dreck, none are in the current English dictionary we have on this site. This should not be seen as particularly surprising. Words of this nature, while linguistically innovative and a treat to say out loud, have not really entered the core vocabulary of English speakers. A look at the Oxford English Corpus shows that of the 10 words contained in the word cloud, only three – dreck, pandybat, and massproduct – are found. Pandybat and massproduct appear once each, with dreck being more common.

Joyce did have an influence on one very common word, at least if you are a physicist, as seen in the entry for quark.

But there is still much to celebrate in the sheer eccentricity of these words, and if you want to bamboozle your friends, some short definitions are supplied below for your delectation.

bawways – crookedly; sideways

dreck – rubbish or worthless

interindividual – taking place between individuals

massproduct – a mass-produced item

mumchanciness – silence

obstropolos – an obstreperous mouth

pandybat – a bat used to hit schoolchildren on the palm of the hand as a punishment

pelurious – hairy.

smellsip – to smell and sip almost simultaneously

suppositous – assumed

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