Charles Dickens was a wordsmith, and the short blunt statements in his A Christmas Carol are among the most powerful. Take the opening,
“Marley was dead, to begin with.”
That is one blunt obit.
Then there is the gentle response by the Spirit of Christmas Past to Scrooge’s question:
‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
‘No. Your past.’
The Spirit’s response is a blunt admonition that catches the moment of awareness by Scrooge…the elaborate scheme arranged byJacob Marley is all for him.
Finally, the conversation between Scrooge and the “lad” who happens to be walking by his window on Christmas morning contains a blunt insult that needs some historical context.
The boy responds “Walk-er…” to Scrooge’s request that he go and buy a large turkey:
‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.
‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.
‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?’
“‘What, the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.
‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’
‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.
‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’
‘Walk-er!’ exclaimed the boy.
‘No, no,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!’
Dickens uses the term Walker as an ironic twist on the “Bah, Humbug” that Scrooge sputters throughout the story. The boy’s response literally means “get lost.” Numerous sites confirm that the full expression developed from the phrase Hookey Walker, which starts to appear in the early 19th century (1811).
Of course Scrooge’s promise of coins overrides the boy’s skepticism, and the turkey is delivered to the Cratchit household just in time for Christmas…in time to save Tiny Tim.
In time to hear, “God bless us, every one.”
Short, blunt. Memorable lines from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.…Christmas Gift #8.