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7 Delightful Dickensian Words

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Charles Dickens captured Victorian society from the finest drawing rooms to the filthiest gutters, and his primary tool was language. As Bryan Kozlowski, author and member of the Dickens Fellowship puts it in his new book What the Dickens?!: Distinctly Dickensian Words and How to Use Them, “Dickens wallowed in words like no other.” Kozlowski has collected 200 words used by Dickens, some of them drawn from the life around him, some of his own invention, and puts them in the context of 19th century England and Dickens’s body of work. Here are just a few of the delightful offerings discussed in the book.

1. MARPLOT

“A meddlesome, though well-meaning, person who unwittingly spoils the plans of others.” This word, used in Our Mutual Friend, was based on the name of a character from an 18th century play who exemplified those “meddlesome” qualities.

2. SASSIGASSITY

This word for “audacity with attitude,” which was coined by Dickens for the short story “A Christmas Tree,” never caught on. Which is a shame.

3. CONNUBIALITIES

This “polite euphemism for marital arguments” comes up in Nicholas Nickelby when Nicholas changes the subject “in view of stopping some slight connubialities which had begun to pass between Mr. and Mrs. Browdie.”

4. JOG-TROTTY

This word for boring was used in Bleak House to call something “jog-trotty and humdrum.” Kozlowski explains that it comes from “jog-trot, the slow and steady trot of a horse.”

5. UGSOME

Already an old fashioned word for “horrible and frightening” when Dickens used it in his literary periodical All the Year Round, ugsome goes back to Old Norse ugga for “to dread.”

6. CAG-MAGGERS

Cagmag was slang for rotten meat. Hence this term Dickens used in Great Expectations for “unscrupulous butchers.”

7. SLANGULAR

A perfect invention of Dickens’s own, it shows up in Bleak House in discussing one character’s verbal “strength lying in a slangular direction” or leaning (at an angle) toward slang.

Get a more comprehensive tour through linguistic Dickensiana in What the Dickens?! including specific sections on Words for Making Merry, Words for Bleak Days and Bad Company, Street Words and Slang, Words for the Rich and Ridiculous, and Vocabulary for the Smart-Sounding Victorian.

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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