Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Meaning of “What The Dickens !  The Very Dickens !” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Meaning of “What The Dickens !  The Very Dickens !” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

What The Dickens !  The Very Dickens !

“I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.”

—SHAKESPEARE : The Merry Wives of Windsor, III.

These exclamatory phrases signify either indignation, irritation, impatience, or astonishment. In these senses the word “dickens” is generally used with the interrogative pronouns: “what,” “who,” “how,” “when,” “why,” and “where.”

Since the time of the great Victorian novelist, Charles Dickens, it has been natural to associate with his name all such phrases as those which are the subject of this present dissertation. It has been supposed, for example, that Dickens: fearless, outspoken wrath in his spirited defence of the weak gave birth to the word. Certainly no other man in English literature has shown up harshness, callousness, and mercilessness in high places as did Dickens. Nothing infuriated his tender soul so much as any form of brutality or oppression by the privileged against the unprivileged, which, to Dickens, so often meant the poor. So great did Dickens impress the public mind of his day that it ‘became common speech to refer to any similar outspoken utterance as equalling the author himself, as “He is a veritable Dickens 1” or “He writes like the very Dickens himself I”

The word “dickens,” however, is older than Britain’s glorious classical author, so old, indeed, that lexicographers are uncertain of its origin. Murray suggests that it is a relative of “deuce,” meaning “devil,” perhaps a diminutive as “devilkin,” corrupted as “de’ilkin,” and then “dickin.” Certainly one does always associate these words, as in “What the dickens!” “Who the dickens is he?” and “He played the very dickens with everything and everybody”: that is, he played a mild havoc, and caused consternation among the company. At the time the Pickwick Papers were published, humorous speculation was rife about the identity of “Boz,” and the following lines appeared in a periodical:

Who the dickens “Boz” could be

Puzzled many a learned elf,

Till time revealed the mystery,

And “Boz” appeared as Dickens’ self.  


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