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The Writer, the Lexicographer, and Lexical Change Dennis Taylor X homas Hardy said that on certain occasions he would start to use an unusual word, but would stop to first look it up in the dictionary . He was nervous that his reviewers would again attack him for coining words, and he sought to have behind him the authority of the dictionary. On some occasions, the word he was looking up was in the dictionary, but unfortunately, as Robert Graves reported, "The sole authority quoted was himself in a half-forgotten novel." On another occasion Hardy said, "Yesterday I was not quite sure of a rustic word which I wanted to use in a poem, and once again found myself at a loss: because the only authority quoted for it in the Oxford English Dictionary was my own 'Under the Greenwood Tree, 1872'."' At the same time, Hardy was bemused when the reviewers overlooked words he had in fact coined, like the word immuned, as in the lines, In the seventies those who met me did not know Of the vision That immuned me from the chillings of misprision. Graves remarked, "He had wanted it so badly for a poem, had looked in Murray to see if it existed, found it did not, and so made it and slipped it in." The dictionary would eventually catch up to Hardy and include the word in the second Supplement, which would cite Hardy's usage from "In the Seventies," but also find an earlier example (1849) and label it "rare."2 While Hardy was looking for his words in Murray, Murray was looking for his words in Hardy. In 1913 Murray asked Hardy about the verb tranted from "The Bride-Night Fire," as in the phrase "the goodman . . . Who tranted, and moved people's things." Hardy Dennis Taylor replied, and Murray cited Hardy as the only modern example and also the only such spelling of the word ("rare. Now dial.") since the sixteenth century traunting 'to trade as a carrier'. There was a constant give and take between Murray and Hardy, each seeking in the other a warrant for using or citing words.3 This co-dependence and cooperation between writer and editor led to some amusing results. Many Hardy words were cited in the dictionary, and then in subsequent revisions of his own works, Hardy eliminated those words. What happens to the status of these? They stand under a weird sort of erasure. Examples of such erasures of Hardy's unique words (many ofwhich are cognates to standard words) are the following italicized examples: "And, changing anew my onbearer ('horse'), / 1 traversed the downland"; "By Joidoigne, near to east, as we ondrew, I Dawn pierced the humid air"; "A mover in circles from which the greatest ostraciser ofall is servitude"; "And still his soul outshaped, as when in clay / Its life in theirs" (i.e., the survivors); "though Love cease, / Love's race shows undecrease." Hardy wrote these lines, the dictionary cited the words, Hardy revised the lines, and the dictionary was left phantoms. Also, Hardy wrote of Tess's desperate letter to Angel, that it "lay awaiting him in a drawer at Emminster Vicarage, its ardour pitifully wasting itself on the cold darkness and impercipience of that receptacle, like a star whose rays reach no inhabited planet." Did Hardy realize the depths of philological irony in deleting the passage which contained the word impercipience} This derivative now exists in the dictionary, but its basis has been erased, made impercipient; so the word has a strange ghostly parasitic status, notjust a dictionary word like those made up by editors who misread earlier passages, but a word that lived and died quickly at the whim of its lone authority. The drawer which Angel did not look into looks emptier than ever. The dictionary ofcourse would return the favor. Several Hardy words are cited in the first Supplement but are eliminated in the second : "With the advance of day, the snow resumes its fall, slowly burying the dead bivouackers"; "Those teeth oftreble line / Injaws of oaken wood / Held open by the English navarchy" (naval power); "Must the house listen to such wilding ('extravagant') words...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 1-14
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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