“Juvescence” and other poetical “Errors”

This morning on the Twitter came this from @nemoloris:

OED says “juvescence” is “irregular”, not “erroneous”, but (notorious TSE fan) Robert Burchfield himself called it a malformation (in his Eliot memorial lectures, I believe). Eliot’s defensive letter, sourced by @rngould, is worth keeping in mind: irregular needn’t be erroneous, and sometimes poets are looking to produce effects that require some lexical fiddling.

True errors do occur, however, and sometimes they make it into the dictionary. I take this little blurb from my article on Eliot in the OED:

But let’s return to the original questions: what iffy words have poets managed to slip into the language (or at least the dictionary). I decided to have a look, using “juvescence” as a model. My program sought out words with “irreg” or “err” in the etymology or first definition, which had a poem as the first cited evidence.

I found about 300 words. Some were false positives (e.g. ‘err’ part of some other word), some dialectical (especially Scots). But the rest seem to be of the “juvescence” or “opherion” type, i.e. either irregular or erroneous spellings and formations. Here is a list, limited to the more recognizable post-1700 poets who first committed these words to paper, at least as far as OED knows:

Poets' "Errors" in OED

PoetWord they usedWord they meant to use (probably?)Lines they wrote
2nd Ep. to J. Priestley
liceling

nymphHe..could tell On one small louse how many licelings dwell!
AudenRassenschander
RassenschandeI ought to be the prize, the living wonder, The really pure from any Rassenschander... The Nordic type, the too too truly Aryan.
Baileysoulical, a.soul-like? [This has been antedated in OED3 to a non-poem]Some of these bodies whom I speak of are Pure spirits, others bodies soulical.
Beddoespurplely, adv.you can't make that word: "fed with purple (things)"The young lord..Like a young dragon on Hesperian berries Purplely fed, who dashes through the air.
Beverlyatheticize, v.
athetize, v.Might he not even Atheticize, and Disannul Sin, and bring it even to nothing?
Browning (E.)volitientvoluntarilyI elected it Of my will, not of service. What I do, I do volitient, not obedient.
Browning (R.)ombrifugeumbrella? refuge?The belfry proves a fortress of a sort,..Turns sunscreen, paravent, and ombrifuge.
Careyinsectic, a.
insectanA laden ant was passing by, And with her small insectic eye, She look'd upon the abject man.
Coleridgepoppeanpoppy(juice)-likeIn drizzly rains poppean dews O'er the tired inmates of the Coach diffuse.
Darley
deluginous, a.
deluge-likeHe..enthralls Earth in deluginous ocean.
Eliotjuvescence
juvenescenceIn the juvescence of the year Came Christ the tiger.
Eliotopherion
orpharionSong. For the opherion.
FessendentwisticaltwistedCertain sages, learn'd and twistical... Have prov'd what's wonderful.
Huntlimniad
limnadThe Limniad takes Her pleasure in the lakes.
Huntcoenaculous, a.
cenaculous (this word never got invented)People grossly coenaculous.
Lowell
universanimous, a.
universally unanimousThough the learned are not agreed as to the particular dialect employed by Theocritus, they are universanimous..as to its rusticity.
Lytton
scintillescent, a.
scintillating (feebly?)One pale, Minute, scintillescent, and tremulous star.
Ogleinexhaustless, a.
exhaustlessHer Strength of Soul..a pure but in-exhaustless Store!
RamsayMexiconian, a.
MexicanIn Mexiconian forests fly Thousands [of creatures] that never wing'd our sky.
Ridleywistless, a.
unbotheredSo ore Avernus, or the Lucrine Lake, The wistless bird pursues his purpos'd Flight.
Wordsworthloco-descriptive, a.
locus-descriptive (loco is ablative, as in locomotion)The Epitaph, the Inscription, the Sonnet, and all loco-descriptive poetry, belong to this class [the Idyllium].

3 Comments

  • Giles Goodland wrote:

    Interesting. Perhapls also Browning’s ‘twat’ and Pope’s Phantomnation?

  • Giles Goodland wrote:

    I am sure twistical has some dialect provenance

  • I did think about Browning’s ‘twat’ – it didn’t show up in my scoop because there’s no separate sense for ‘a nun’s attire’ – B’s error is just mentioned in the definition.

    (have to sigh at OED1’s prudish habit of tucking definitions of naughty words within the quotations, instead of rephrasing them in their own editorial voice).

    Twistical I think is just a jocular rhyme (for sophistical). Hudibrastical.

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