‘What The Dickens’ Book Review

Put down that gum-tickler and open your organ of benevolence, and no longer be an ugsome toad-eater. Are you flummoxed and in all sorts of fanteegs by that last sentence and this one? Be flummoxed no more, as these are some of the words and phrases you can learn to use in Bryan Kozlowski’s book, What the Dickens?!: Distinctly Dickensian Words and How to Use Them.

Released by Running Press, this 220 page book features around 200 Victorian era linguistics that iconic author Charles Dickens used in his most famous pieces of work. Even the title of this book harkens back to the type of wordplay one would see in a Victorian book written by this master. The vernacular of Dickens was typically wordy and full of words that have been lost over the decades, baffling readers of all ages with the meaning of some of these phrases. In ‘What the Dickens,” you can decode some of these and adapt them into your own daily speech (if you want to screw with your friends).


Kozlowski, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and a member of The Dickens Fellowship whose writing has appeared in numerous books and websites, has chosen just a smattering of some of the odd words you will read in a Dickens book. Each page spotlights a new word and shows an example of its use in a Dickens book, offers a definition, and explains some of the history of that unusual word. There is a lot of love and effort put into this book, making it as informative as it is fun.

Some of my favorite words include ‘burked,’ ‘podsnappery,’ ‘bombazeen’ (it sounds cooler than what it is), ‘wiglomeration,’ and ‘antediluvian.’ As for their meaning, I won’t spoil those for you unless you scoop this up. Incidentally, the word ‘Trumpery’ is included in this book, which is defined as – “Something of apparent value, but of little actual worth. From Middle French tromper, ‘to decieve.’ I’m just gonna’ leave that right there for you…

Don’t be anti-pickwickian and pick up this book. It makes for a great stocking stuffer during the holiday season and beyond for the literary lover in your life! While most of these words have fallen out of use in our modern vernacular, it’s enjoyable to bring them back into fashion – at least with your inner circle of Dickens-loving pals. Reading Dickens can be a lot like reading Shakespeare, but there is no reason not to have some fun with these old-fashioned words, so start bringing them back to life today with What the Dickens?!: Distinctly Dickensian Words and How to Use Them.

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