The Rumpus and Jonathan Lethem have recently drawn attention to the adjective “Ballardian,” as in, resembling the works of J.G. Ballard, especially his “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”

I’m automatically suspicious of claims that “Ballardian” has entered the popular lexicon, since Norton just published The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard, and exaggerating the importance of the adjective is an easy point of entry for talking about the book. It’s one thing for your fans to coin a word. It’s another thing for that word to be used as often as “Shakespearean” and “Kafkaesque.”

So I conducted a highly unscientific Google search to see if J.G. Ballard has actually joined the ranks of famous authors with famous adjectives. In the company of Joyce, Chaucer, and Hemingway, let’s see where Ballard falls.


[adjective]: [Google hits]


Shakespearean: 2,800,000

Orwellian: 1,030,000

Dickensian: 438,000 – the new word for any complicated TV series

Joycean: 259,000

Yeatsian: 205,000

Brechtian: 173,000

Chaucerian: 168,000

Wildean: 164,000

Spenserian: 159,000 – name of a poetic stanza

Proustian: 125,000

Nabokovian: 107,000

Keatsian: 65,000

Swiftian: 60,000

Ballardian: 51,000

Faulknerian: 45,100

Flaubertian: 37,400

Woolfian: 24,800

Melvillean: 21,200

Twainian: 17,000


Sapphic: 2,490,000 – a lot of these hits are porn

Homeric: 2,090,000 – also the name of an era in the Greek language

Miltonic: 315,000

Byronic: 270,000 – the Byronic hero

Pindaric: 159,000 – the Pindaric ode

Cervantic: 6,950


Kafkaesque: 290,000

Dantesque: 283,000

Hemingwayesque: 269,000


I have to say my favorite adjectives are the ones that end in -ic. They sound barbaric (Nordic, runic, Germanic, Icelandic) and they’re often strong enough to shift the stress from one syllable (MIL-ton) to another (mil-TON-ic). There’s also a category of adjectives for names ending in the letter w, where the w changes to a v. Shaw becomes Shavian, Marlowe becomes Marlovian. Those are cool, too.

I’m surprised that Ballard’s adjective, with 51,000 hits, surpasses those of more “classic” authors like Faulkner, Flaubert, Woolf, and Melville. Still, the average number of Google hits for the five writers The Rumpus initially compares Ballard to (Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Dickens, and Nabokov) is 223,760. Ballard has a long way to go before his word is that widespread.

Any favorite adjectives I missed?

Do you think “Ballardian” would get more Google hits if it described a sexual position?

Would that sexual position be related to automobile wrecks?

What’s your name as an adjective?



Filed under Speaking Ill of the Dead, The Rumpus

11 Responses to Adjectives

  1. msnowe

    Tennysonian. Lockean. Emersonian.

    What about adjectives named after characters, like “quixotic,” “faustian,” “falstaffian,” etc.?

  2. fictionadvocate

    Good call. Here are Google results for those.

    Tennysonian: 83,000
    Lockean: 240,000
    Emersonian: 128,000

    quixotic: 1,230,000
    faustian: 403,000
    falstaffian: 258,000

  3. fictionadvocate

    Hurlesque: 2,820

  4. msnowe

    Lipinski-esque: 11,600

  5. Your search – Berentsonic – did not match any documents.


    Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
    Try different keywords.
    Try more general keywords.
    Get more cred.

  6. fictionadvocate

    What if you spelled it “Barents Sonic?” There was something called the Barents Sonic Flight Test in 1967, where the Norwegian government tried to break the sound barrier by flying one of its Royal Air Force fighter planes at high speed over the Barents Sea. The Barents Sea is frozen most of the year, so the atmosphere above it is very smooth and offers little wind resistance.

  7. dannybayridge


  8. Lingelic – 18 hits. And counting.

  9. Carrie M

    Morrisrovian. 0 hits.

  10. Trottesque

    Did you mean: grottesque Top 2 results shown
    The golden age of grottesque – Club CDFreaks / MyCE – Knowledge is …
    2 posts – Last post: May 8, 2002
    ciao gente…. sapete per caso quando uscirà il nuovo album di marilyn manson? ho sentito che doveva uscire in autunno….. ma ancora non ho …

    And so on…

  11. Ginsberg-esque: 1,090,000 hits. Who knew, right?

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