Quiz: Match The Word to Its Creator

Are you a literary ninja? Prove it by acing this challenge based on Paul Dickson’s “Authorisms.”

Are you a literary muscleman or a munchkin? A word ninja or a spewer of malaprops? And who came up with these terms anyway? In Authorisms, out this week, Paul Dickson traces writerly coinages (a coinage of the Elizabethan scribe George Puttenham) of words and expressions ranging from assassination (Shakespeare’s Macbeth) to zombification (the poet Andrei Codrescu).

Dickson takes things too far sometimes—while Jane Austen may have been the first to mention base ball in print­, for instance, it wasn’t the baseball we know. Yet I was fascinated to discover that sayings I’d mistaken for relatively recent—blurb (1907), frenemy (1953), weapons of mass destruction (1937), wimp (from an 1898 children’s book by Evelyn Sharpe)—actually predated me. It’s enough to drive an anxious magazine editor to verbicide.

So take the “Authorisms” challenge, and see if you can guess who’s behind some of these everyday expressions.

 

*Correction: A previous version of this quiz incorrectly identified the date for "Moron".

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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