Five Fascinating Facts about Rudyard Kipling

Interesting Rudyard Kipling facts – about his life and work

1. Rudyard Kipling used the word ‘grinch’ over 60 years before Dr Seuss. The word ‘grinch’ was used by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poetry collection, Barrack-Room Ballads, in ‘The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief’: ‘It’s woe to bend the stubborn back / Above the grinching quern, / It’s woe to hear the leg bar clack / And jingle when I turn!’ Dr Seuss would take up the word for his classic 1957 children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (More Dr Seuss facts here.)

2. He also introduced the word ‘cushy’ into the English language. Born in Bombay in 1865, Kipling spent much of his childhood in India, and knowledge of Indian culture and the country’s various languages can be found in his work. The earliest known use of ‘cushy’ in a work written in English appears – as khushi – in a piece published by a young Kipling in 1887. He used it to mean ‘relaxed’, but it later came to mean ‘comfortable and undemanding’. In Rudyard Kiplingoriginal Urdu, the word means ‘pleasant’ or ‘good’. Meanwhile, in his 1904 book Traffics and Discoveries, Kipling coined the rather lovely word ‘lunchless’ for someone who has had no lunch, and the earliest known printed use of the word ‘Righto!’ (expressing assent or compliance) comes from Kipling, in 1893. ‘Squidgy’ also makes its debut in Kipling’s work, in 1891, as does ‘stinky’ (from Plain Tales of the Hills, 1888).

3. His first name wasn’t Rudyard. It was Joseph. The name Rudyard – literally, ‘red yard’ – was taken from Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire, but it was Kipling’s middle name, rather than his first. However, he would be known by the name Rudyard rather than Joseph, and it was the altogether more distinctive Rudyard which Kipling chose to adorn the covers of his books, from the late 1880s when his first volume of short stories appeared (while Kipling was still only in his early twenties).

4. He used the idea of the ‘daemon’ over half a century before Philip Pullman. Kipling claimed that a ‘Daemon’ helped him to write The Jungle Book, which is probably his most famous work. In his final book, the autobiography Something of Myself, he wrote: ‘When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey.’ This ‘Daemon’ is a part of the author’s personality which seems to take over and ‘dictate’ the story to the writer.

5. In 2013, many of his poems, which had long been thought lost, were published. American scholar Thomas Pinney unearthed over 50 previously unpublished poems by Kipling, which were published in 2013.

Learn more about the world of late Victorian adventure fiction with our interesting facts about H. Rider Haggard and our compendium of great Robert Louis Stevenson facts.

Image: Rudyard Kipling in 1899 by Philip Burne-Jones; Wikimedia Commons.

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