Edgar Allan Poe's contributions to language
dencorbet1
I downloaded a list off the internet of words that Edgar Allan Poe supposedly either popularized or coined new definitions for. The list included words such as: pants, normality, epilepsy, odorless, and tintinnabulation. Of course, this list was met with great skepticism by my junior English students. Is there anyway I can verify whether or not Poe did indeed create these words or help popularize their usuage?
AdSumADS
Each of these words has an etymology eaching well before Poe's time, so it would be hard to substantiate that he coined them and the modifications, such as "odorless" and "normality," are difficult to track since reference material tends not to distinguish discrete histories for them as opposed to their root. Further, "popularized" is tough to track since it often involves a hair-splitting judgement call as to when an extent word gets enough usage to be considered popularized. In the case of "tintinnabulation," it did exist before Poe but was, clearly, popularized by his poem.

Consider: http://www.quinion.com/words/weirdwords/ww-tin1.htm.

Here are the dictionary look-ups:
http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=pants
http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=normality
http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=epilepsy
http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=odorless
http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=tintinnabulation

Frank Pierce
Slightly off of the EAP topic, but a great example of "popularizing" a word which had virtually gone extinct, and bringing it back into common usage was, I heard, FDR's re-introduction of the word "infamy" into the language, in his request for a declaration of war.

The word was in relatively common usage in the early 19th century and was in disuse until 1941.

Or so I have been told.

Return to the archive