What the dickens are you doing?’
The dictionary states that this is an expression of anger or surprise.
But, contrary to popular belief, ‘what the dickens’ has nothing to do with Charles Dickens.
As our city is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth throughout 2012, I decided to find out the origin of the phrase.
Last Saturday I attended the official opening of the A Tale of One City exhibition at the City Museum.
It’s a fabulous display of Portsmouth’s social history (1812-1870), featuring many artefacts associated with Charles Dickens.
I was asking a Dickens expert about the phrase above and he said it’s not about Dickens, but from Shakesapeare. Richard III was spoken of as ‘dick’ or ‘devil’, and it became ‘dickens’. So there.