Printer Friendly

Hemingway and the OED.

The second print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989) shows 39 entries crediting Hemingway with a word's first use in English, citing dates, titles, and quotations. This note looks at the new words Hemingway has contributed to our language from "crut" to "whunk"; the foreign language borrowings he has given currency--such as bal musette, cojones, and tenente; and even the words reflecting Hemingway himself, such as "Hemingwayesque" and "Hemingwayan."


THE ONLINE VERSION OF The Oxford English Dictionary lists 332 word-entries with quotations from Ernest Hemingway's writings, and 46 of these entries name Hemingway as the "first cited author" of the word in English. A check against the second print edition (1989) shows that 39 entries credit Hemingway with the first use in English, citing dates, titles, and quotations. Why the discrepancy between 46 and 39? And why so many, Hemingway quotations?

The discrepancy is the easier issue to resolve. The CD-ROM version of the OED (a single disk, published most recently in January 2005 at $295) allows researchers to chase down, among other things, a word's appearance throughout the OED, and to find any given writer's contribution to the etymology of a word or words. The online version does everything the CD-ROM does but adds new material every three months, including not only new word-entries but also new usages and illustrative quotations for older entries. Between the second print edition (1989) and the online version (September 2006), seven new word-entries were credited to Hemingway as the first-cited author.

Between September and mid-December 2006, further changes took place. There were several new entries, including: "mariscosa" as in "Mariscosa, shellfish eaten in the cafes while drinking beer before or after bullfights" (DIA, Glossary 448; changed to "mariscos" on page 418 of the paperback issue); "ciao" as in "'Ciaou!' he said, 'What kind of time did you have?'" (AFTA 18 [page 11 in both the first edition and the paperback issue]); "downshift" as in "He brought the car to a stop before the bridge, downshifted and then put her at the road again" (GOE 229).

Both the CD-ROM and online version of the OED allow the user to choose how entries are displayed by turning pronunciations, etymologies, variant spellings, and quotations on and off ("About OED Online"). If you know the meaning, you can find the word; "wildcards" can be used if you are unsure of the spelling; words can also be found via the language from which the word was adopted into English. In addition to searches by parts of speech or by an author's name, searches can be made by titles of works or by first dates of use. Type in Death in the Afternoon or 1932 and discover a dozen first-time uses of words from Hemingway's book.

OED Online adds nearly 2,000 words and revisions quarterly, incorporating new words or new meanings of old words almost as fast as they appear in reputable media outlets--or at least as fast as alert readers can communicate their findings to the editors. Such flexibility makes it possible to compare differences that have taken place in a word's usage since publication of the second print edition, since the most recent CD-ROM edition, and even since last quarter's online version (if a print-out was kept). As dictionary experts would say, "The meaning of a word is the sum of the contexts in which it occurs:' And contexts change often, often enough, apparently, to warrant revisions every three months. The cost for a subscription to the online edition is $295 a year or $29.95 a month.

Shakespeare probably leads all writers in providing first usages of English words in print (179 according to last September's online version); Faulkner has 25, and Steinbeck nine. Scholarly biases may account for the number of times a particular author is quoted in etymologies, with larger numbers of citations for the most popular authors. The Oxford editors choose representative usages, perhaps one per century for some of the older words, perhaps one per decade for more recent or more quickly changing words. (1) A good example of the potential confusion may be found in the first word on the Hemingway list (see the full list below).
 anis [Fr. (Sp. anis), lit. 'aniseed': cf. ANISE.] A liqueur or wine
 flavoured with aniseed. Cf. ANISETTE.

 [1841G. BORROW Zincali I. II. iv. 288 Bring the bottle of anise; the
 senor and the senora must drink a copita.] 1926 E. HEMINGWAY
 Fiesta (1927) xiv. 173 One booth advertised Anis del Toro. 1938 G.
 ORWELL Homage to Catalonia ix. 145 Anis, the filthy Aragonese
 liqueur. 1939 L. MACNEICE Autumn Jrnl. vi. 28 A Cambridge don who
 said with an air "There's going to be trouble shortly in this
 country," And ordered anis, pudgy and debonair, Glad to show off his
 mastery of the language. 1956 O. WELLES Mr. Arkadin I. v. 50
 Listening to the braying of donkeys and the songs of the children,
 drinking anis in the deep shadow thrown by a convent wall. 1972
 Bottlers' Year Bk.1972-73 291 Anis, alcoholic aniseed cordial,
 alcoholic but usually rather sweet.

The information in brackets above probably indicates George Borrow's addition of an "e" on the end of the entry word, theoretically making Hemingway the first to use the word "anis" without the extra letter. But it is likely that other writers between 1841 and 1926 also used the shorter spelling. Other quotations in the entry merely represent the word's usage and are not meant as the only other times the word was used between 1926 and 1972. Further, while the Oxford editors correctly use 1926, the date of the first English-language edition of The Sun Also Rises, for the year of first use, they take their quotation from the first British edition, Fiesta, published a year later. The quotation is on page 173 of Fiesta but on page 153 of the legitimate first edition.

Because the online version involves quarterly uploading of additions and revisions, credit to authors listed among the first to use a word is always in a state of flux. The Oxford editors are no doubt kept busy checking information from thousands of e-mails and older forms of communication claiming to provide "new" words or "new" usages or earlier uses of a given word than those currently specified in the etymology. One might infer that the editors are more interested in various cultural usages than in chronology, perhaps allowing Hemingway's 20th century American popularity to influence their choices.

It is also noteworthy that Hemingway is given credit for multiple citations under a few single entries. In the history of the word "crut," for exam ple, there are quotations from three Hemingway works: In Our Time (1925), page 66 (from "The Battler": "that son of a cruting brakeman"); To Have and Have Not (1937); and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

The OED cites Hemingway as the first writer to use the term "bal musette" in English; here is the complete entry for both the second print edition and the online version:
 bal musette (balmyset) [E] In France, a popular dance-hall (with an
 accordion band). Also attrib.

 1926 HEMINGWAY Fiesta (1927) I. iii. 25 The dancing-club was a bal
 musette. 1934 H. MILLER Tropic of Cancer (1961) 295 They were
 urging me to accompany them to a bal musette. 1934 C. LAMBERT Music
 Ho! II, 94 The bal-musette sentimentality of the valses of Auric.
 1959 'F. NEWTON' Jazz Scene xiii. 235 Such native European forms of
 light entertainment as ... accordion bal musette music.

The OED editors should have purchased a first edition of The Sun Also Rises while it still cost two dollars.

Here is another interesting entry, quoting Hemingway as one Of the users of the word "flit":
 Flit, n. [E the vb.] The proprietary name of an insecticide. Flit
 gun< a syringe intended for use in spraying insecticides.

 1923 Official Gaz. U.S. Pat. Office 27 Nov. 723/1 Standard Oil
 Company (New Jersey). Flit. Insecticide. Claims use since May 17,
 1923. 1926 Trade Marks JrnL 17 Mar. 628 Flit, chemical substances
 used for Agricultural, Horticultural, Veterinary and Sanitary
 purposes. Standard Oil Company. New Jersey. Ibid. 10 Nov. 2513
 Flit, Sprayers, Squirt-guns and Atomizers. Standard Oil Company.
 New Jersey. 1927 Blackw. Mag. Sept. 310/2 She had had the foresight
 to buy a metal spray and a tin of insecticide called Flit. With
 Flit we had come scatheless through Persia, Ibid., Even our Flit
 gun ceased to interest him. 1932 E. HEMINGWAY Death in the
 Afternoon xvi. 186 You ought to spray him with flit. 1948 C. DAY
 LEWIS Otterbury Incident iv. 43 They had a pail of muddy water ...
 and one of those Flit guns loaded with it. 1958 Times 7 Aug. 3/4
 They only had a Flit-gun, the sort of thing we used in India to
 keep the mosquitoes off.

The quotation from Death in the Afternoon is accurate and comes during a conversation between a "contractor" and a picador. A much more colorful reference to "flit" appears, however, in Hemingway's short story "The Butterfly and the Tank"; the main character, called the "flit gun man," is shot to death in Chicote's Restaurant in Madrid (CSS 431). The story was published six years after Death in the Afternoon but before Lewis's Otterbury Incident, the next usage entry. Again, the OED editors seem more interested in varied cultural uses than in chronology.

Hemingway is also credited with the first use of the word "Whunk," as in "We had both heard the whunk of the bullet" (Green Hills of Africa 53, same page in paperback issue). The OED defines "whunk" as "a dull hollow sound, as of a bullet striking something. Also as v. intr., to strike with a 'whunk'. App. only in the work of Hemingway."

Most readers assume that the Oxford English Dictionary always has the final say on definitions and etymology and that it makes no mistakes, but the only entry on Hemingway himself has his birth year wrong. The entry is
 Hemingwayesque, a. [the name of Ernest Hemingway
 (1898-1961), American novelist + ESQUE.]. A characteristic of
 the works of E. Hemingway. So Hemingwayan a.; Hemingwayese;
 Hemingwayish a.

 The first use of the term is credited to H. Haycraft in Murder
 for Pleasure (p. 171): "Hemingwayesque courage and fatalism."
 Jack Kerouac is quoted from On the Road (p. 41): "Composing
 his latest Hemingwayan short story."

An e-mail to the editors four years ago about the error in Hemingway's birth year received a thank-you note in response and an indication that the date would be corrected, but the correction has not been made in the online version. A recent e-mail, however, stated that the current Chief Editor, John Simpson, "reports that he has now corrected [the] date on the latest version of the database. The change will not appear in the online version of the dictionary for some time yet." The letter writer says, "the date is shown correctly in the Shorter OED (2002) and in those of our dictionaries of current English which have entries for Hemingway, including the Oxford Dictionary of English (2005)."

There is no third edition of the OED yet, and the editors seem in no hurry to publish a new print edition, at least in part, one would guess, because of the comparative ease of publishing the CD-ROM edition and the successful online version, both of which cost less to produce. The second edition was published in 1989, in 22,000 pages filling twenty volumes and weighing in at 150 pounds. Three supplemental volumes were added between 1993 and 1997. According to the OED website, editors knew in 1982 that they would have to provide an electronic version, and began hiring project managers and systems engineers as well as additional lexicographers. The New Oxford English Dictionary project began in 1984, and editors had an e-text version of the print edition, plus an additional 5,000 words, by the time the second print edition was published in 1989. The CD-ROM edition was published first in 1992 as a Single 4 1/2-inch disk weighing a few ounces, and Oxford University Press editors considered it "the most adventurous computerization project seen in the publishing industry at the time." It took 120 keyboard specialists and more than fifty proofreaders to produce the e-text edition at a cost of $13.5 million (see "History of the Dictionary").

There is a "Preface to the Third Edition" online, but the essay does not indicate that a new print edition is forthcoming. Simpson states: "The purpose of the current editorial work on the Dictionary is to produce a completely revised and updated text.... Each entry already published is being comprehensively reviewed in the light of new documentary evidence and modern developments in scholarship, and further entries are being added both to fill gaps in the historical record and to record changes in the language today."

Finally, here is a non-Hemingway OED jolt. According to the dictionary, the first user of the word "base-ball" was Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey (you can look it up). It comes at the beginning of the novel as the narrator describes Catherine Morland: "... it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, ..." Austen's game involved both a ball and touching bases. It is worth noting that the main OED entry spells baseball with a hyphen, whereas Austen spelled it as two words.


"About OED Online." Oxford English Dictionary. 14 December 2006. Oxford University Press. 22 August 2006. <>.

"Advanced Search: Entries Containing 'Hemingway' in first cited author." Oxford English Dictionary. 14 December 2006. Oxford University Press. 22 August 2006. < queryword=hemingway&first>.

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Ed. R.W. Chapman. The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.

Hemingway, Ernest. "The Butterfly and the Tank." The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. New York: Scribner's, 1987. 429-436.

--. Death in the Afternoon. New York: Scribner's. 1932.

--. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner's, 1929.

--. Fiesta. London: Jonathan Cape, 1927.

--. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Scribner's, 1940.

--. The Garden of Eden. New York: Scribner's. 1986.

--. Green Hills of Africa. New York: Scribner's, 1935.

--. Green Hills of Africa. The Scribner Library Series. New York: Scribner's, 1965.

--. To Have and Have Not. New York: Scribner's, 1937.

--. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner's, 1926.

--. The Sun Also Rises. The Scribner Library Series. New York: Scribner's, 1965.

"History of the Dictionary." 14 December 2006. Oxford University Press. 22 August 2006. <>.

Oxford English Dictionary. Second Print Edition. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1989.

"Preface to the Third Edition." Oxford English Dictionary. 14 December 2006. Oxford University Press. 22 August 2006. <>.


Ohio Northern University (retired)


(1.) I am grateful to Bryson Clevenger, Jr., research advisor, and Jared Loewenstein, reference services librarian, both at the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, for this suggestion and for numerous other pieces of information and assistance they gave me during my research on this topic.

(2.) Entry list found at the OED Online version (and changed since September) at < first>.

(3.) Quotation is from "The Undefeated": "Pic him, Manos," he said. "Cut him down to size for me."

(4.) Quoted in Arthur Mizener's The Saddest Story "Ford had stayed up all night writing pneumatiques" (342) defined in the OED as letters delivered by a Paris pneumatic dispatch system.

(5.) In "The Undefeated"; OED entry also includes use of "recorte" in DIA (1931).

(6.) From Scribner's Magazine (April 1933): 206.

(7.) In SL (1981), 119. The noun form was used as early as 1585, according to the OED print edition; it doesn't seem possible that Hemingway was the first to use the word as an adjective.
OED entries containing Hemingway as the "first-cited author"
(as of 15 September 2006) (2)

Entry Date Match

anis 1926 Fiesta (1927) 173
bal musette 1926 Fiesta (1927) 25
barrera 1924 IOT (Ch. 12) 22
bop, n 1937 THHN 149
by-line 1926 Fiesta (1927) 19
cante hondo, jondo 1932 DIA 41
Chris(s)ake 1933 WTN (1934) 199
ciao, int 1929 AFTA 18
clochard 1940 FWTBT 340
cojones, n. pl. 1932 DIA 28
coleta 1928 MWW 61
cornada 1932 DIA 244
crut 1925 IOT 66
faena 1927 MWW (1928) 43
farol 1932 DIA 18
heil, int. 1927 MWW (1928) 182
Izarra 1926 SAR 243
larga 1932 DIA 170
media vuelta, n. 1932 DIA 197
 (see banderilla)
molinete, n. 1932 DIA 18
 (see under farol)
morrillo, n. 1932 DIA 180
 (see under morillo)
morucho, n. 1932 DIA 128
pic, n. 1925 This Quarter
 (Autumn-Winter) 206
pic, n. 1926 SAR 173
pic, v. 1927 MWW (1928) 33
 (see under "cut" 54) (3)
pneumatique 1924 Letter (9 August) to Mizener4
querencia 1932 DIA 150
quite 1926 SAR 225
recorte 1925 This Quarter (I. ii) 217 (5)
reventa 1932 DIA 40
rubberiness 1952 OMATS 125
salud, int. 1938 TFC7
salut, int. 1933 "Homage to Switzerland" (6)
scallopini 1950 ARIT 103
shitty, a. 1924 Letter to Ezra Pound (19 July) (7)
spooked, ppl. a. 1937 THHN 50
stumblebum 1932 DIA 297
tenente 1929 AFTA 15
whunk, n. (and v.) 1935 GHOA 53
COPYRIGHT 2007 Ernest Hemingway Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:NOTES; Ernest Hemingway; Oxford English Dictionary
Author:Oliver, Charles M.
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Previous Article:Raymond Carver's inheritance from Ernest Hemingway's literary technique.
Next Article:Reading For Whom the Bell Tolls with Barthes, Bakhtin, and Shapiro.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters