The word Change doesn't seem to make much sense in this quote from A Christmas Carol. To emphasis the sentence, I kept it in bold-type.

MARLEY was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, & the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.


The meaning of the sentence relies on the word 'Change, which is a shortened form of Exchange - the stock exchange. The sentence means that Scrooge had a good reputation on the stock exchange and that his signature carried weight. There is a clue to working out the meaning, since Change begins with a capital letter, indicating that it is a proper noun and not a verb or abstract noun in this context.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    The other clue, of course, being the apostrophe - indicating one or more missing letters in that proper noun. – FumbleFingers Nov 29 '14 at 12:49
  • 6
    @Mari-Lou: Actually, there's more to it than that. Note this definition 3 for change in the full OED: A place where merchants meet for the transaction of business, an exchange. (Since 1800, erroneously treated as an abbreviation of Exchange, and written 'Change.) Now chiefly in phr. on 'Change, at the Exchange. So it's not a "Dickensism" anyway, and strictly speaking it's not an abbreviation either (or wasn't, until 1800 a few decades before Dickens perpetuated the "erroneous" usage complete with errant apostrophe). – FumbleFingers Nov 29 '14 at 14:16
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Interesting. Well, I vote for a Dickensism tag. We have one for Shakespeare. – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '14 at 14:20
  • @Mari-Lou: But as established by my earlier comment, Dickens used it at least 4-5 decades after the "erroneous" usage had already been recorded, so it's not really what most people would consider a "Dickensism" (which would tend to imply a usage either coined or massively popularised by the man). Which might perhaps apply in rare instances, but I don't think Dickens changed the actual language to anything like the extent Shakespeare did (or at least, seems to have, from the current perspective). – FumbleFingers Nov 30 '14 at 16:24
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Well, the tag is dickens, there are a number of questions related to passages/terms taken from his books. I think he merits a tag all to himself. I had considered, momentarily, 19th-century-english but then thought better of it. The meaning tag is too vast and general IMHO – Mari-Lou A Nov 30 '14 at 16:30

This is a note by Michael Slater:

'Change: The Royal Exchange in the City of London, which functioned as a trading centre from 1570 to 1939.

Michael Slater. Notes, p. 275. In. Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

| improve this answer | |

This basically means that because Scrooge deals with a lot of stock exchange and holds a good reputation, his name is well known as very reliable when he puts it down on something, which suggests that Marley is indubitably dead. Later on in the story, when Marley's ghost visits Scrooge, this should make us believe that spirits are real, because of how certain Dickens has made Marley's death seem at the start of the novella.

| improve this answer | |
  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. Please consider adding some punctuation to your answer. – Glorfindel May 10 '17 at 17:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.