Pickwickian Sense

   Words or epithets, usually of a derogatory or insulting kind, that in certain circumstances are not to be taken as having the same force or implication they ordinarily would have, are said to be Pickwickian. The allusion is to the phrase from Samuel Pickwick of Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers. Mr. Pickwick accused Mr. Blotton of "acting in a vile and calumnious manner," whereupon Mr. Blotton retorted by calling Mr. Pickwick "a humbug." When Mr. Blotton was asked whether he meant the word in its usual sense, he replied that he meant it only "in the Pickwickian sense." And the same turned out to be true with Mr. Pickwick. The offensive words were not meant to displease, for, in fact, each person had a high regard for the other.
   An insulting remark, then, that is not to be taken seriously is a Pickwickian.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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