Article Title

Cratchit: The Etymology


Cratchit, the surname shared by Bob, Martha, Peter, Belinda, assorted other Cratchits, the mother and wife who is only identified as “Mrs. Cratchit,” and especially Tiny Tim, in A Christmas Carol (1843), is one of Dickens’s most thematically and stylistically significant character names, as well as arguably the best loved. Nevertheless, the name’s etymology has given rise to relatively little commentary and is as yet undetermined. The exception is Michael Patrick Hearn’s The Annotated Christmas Carol (Dickens and Hearn 119) which correctly identifies the predominant etymon, without any attempt to “determine” it. Here I examine various etymological claims and argue for a particular mixed etymology, one that makes linguistic (morphological, semantic, pragmatic) and literary (thematic, characterological, stylistic) sense. The etymology leads to the name’s fictive value: the etymology is essential to understanding, not only thesignificance of the name, but the significance of the novel, as well as something about the aesthetic assumptions or inclinations underlying both, of which we are aware at their point of intersection.