Thursday, 15 November 2012

Did Coleridge coin the word "intensify"?

The OED thinks he did.  Indeed, he himself claimed that he did (Biographia Literaria, 1:7)
Intensify. I am aware, that this word occurs neither in Johnson's Dictionary nor in any classical writer. But the word, to intend, which Newton and others before him employ in this sense, is now so completely appropriated to another meaning, that I could not use it without ambiguity: while to paraphrase the sense, as by render intense, would often break up the sentence and destroy that harmony of the position of the words with the logical position of the thoughts, which is a beauty in all composition, and more especially desirable in a close philosophical investigation. I have therefore hazarded the word, intensify: though, I confess, it sounds uncouth to my own ear.
So did Coleridge invent this word? Well, no, he didn't. It was in earlier use earlier. Here's one example: ‘They [Catholic schools] cheapen, they defend, they intensify learning; and all this is more than an equivalent for the injury which may arise from their connection with specific creeds’ [‘Chandler’s Life of Bishop Waynflete’, The Monthly Review 67 (1812), 67]. So there we have it.

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