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Don't get your feathers ruffled. I just wondered, what is the Dickens?
What the dickens is "the dickens?"

I woke up with the chickens wondering "What is the Dickens?"

by Yvonne Sinclair M.A.

Just wondering what is "dickens?" I use the phrase, "scared the dickens out of me!" So what is the dickens. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, or just something that leaves with a slump, slump, slump to wait until it is time to return and be scared out of you again? What the dickens is the dickens.
It could be a area of the country phrase. I have several running around my head. They were put there by my mother who grew up in the South. "Sam hill" is one of them. "What the Sam hill" was one of her favorites. Others we used while growing up were, " Sight for sore eyes. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't count your chickens until they hatch. Fly off the handle. Go to bed with the chickens. Get the short end of the stick. Either fish or cut bait." None of these really bothered me. But dickens was just the dickens.

In the "old" days when this word was used widely (or widely-er), there was not easy access to information. The good ole Webster dictionary, gramma, or the bunch sitting outside the drug store, would be the expert information channel. Now, I have no axe to grind  with any of these, but today, we don't have to go off half cocked. With the internet, our choices of "expert" are limitless.

So, Dickens, let us explore. This is what I found.

"Dickens is defined as a word used to show confusion, shock or irritation."And of course all the references to Charles Dickens, Dickens Village etc. were listed on my Google search. I do declare. this just was not good enough for me...second search-"what the dickens."

Wikipedia, "What the Dickens is a television panel game hosted by Sandi Toksvig. Team captains were Dave Gorman and Tim Brooke-Taylor for the first series and Sue Perkins and Chris Addison for the second and third. It is recorded at Sky Studios in West London. Ain't that the berries! Not an explanation of "dickens."I don't want to seem too big for my britches, but,  what the dickens is that? I tried not to get my feathers ruffled. I wanted to go whole hog. SIGH!!

Still searching I was surprised, "what the dickens is this?"  WEBSTER gave the best explanation. Maybe I would be barking up the wrong tree, but I could have strolled down to the drug store and asked the towns people...oh wait, they don't sit there anymore. Starbucks would be more promising. If you were sitting having your latte' you might get your feather's ruffled if I came over and asked, "what is the dickens?"

Hmmm, think I will check Webster, my old stompin' ground, after all.
dick·ens   [dik-inz]  
devil; deuce (usually preceded by the  and often used in exclamationsand as a mild imprecation): The dickens you say! What the dickens doeshe want?
1590–1600;  apparently a fanciful use of Dicken,  form of Dick,  propername
Well shut my mouth. So, gramma probably cleaned up someone's language. Wonder whose language that would have been (snicker). "What the devil!" became "What the Dickens." and "Scared the devil out of me." became...well you get it.
What the dickens difference did this all make anyway? I might have been barking up the wrong tree, or bit off more than I could chew. Most likely I just woke up with a random question. Instead of laying there like a bump on a log, I jumped out of bed and, with two shakes of a lamb's tail, I was at my computer. It was as easy as sliding off a greasy log backward. You were the lucky person to be curious. Now doesn't that just take the cake?

©Copyright 2013 by Yvonne Sinclair M.A., MFCC. All Rights Reserved. All material is owned and protected. Reproduction without the express written consent of the author is forbidden.
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