As far as I know, Lewis never used the phrase, “wordsmith.” When it comes to writing, he preferred images of stone, greenery, and song to metaphors of fire and steel. Yet there were times that Lewis turned to the forge to shape just the right word or phrase for his purpose.
It is valuable to pay attention to the words that C.S. Lewis made up, what the 16th century stylist Roger Ascham condemned as “strange and inkhorne tearmes” (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 277). Ascham disliked these neologisms because they “make all things darke and harde,” but I find that the perfect new word has a way of bringing immediately to mind the force of the idea. J.R.R. Tolkien’s made-up word, “eucatastrophe,” is perhaps one of the richest neologisms of the 20th century. “Neologism”—literally, “new word”—is itself a term made up for the purpose in the 1770s.
Because Lewis saw himself as a translator of ideas, he did not often make up new words. But he did not dislike neologisms. I doubt it is a coincidence that when describing Alexandre Dumas’ made-up word, demi-monde, he said that Dumas was trying “to name a shadowy region on the fringes of the monde which had had no name before” (Studies in Words, 267). While Ascham thought that newfangled words were dark and hard, Lewis thought Dumas used one to bring light to the shadows.
In literary terms, what shadow-chasing did Lewis attempt by forming new words from the materials at hand? Each week this fall, I will highlight a word or two–or sometimes a small phrase–that Lewis reforged from his own word-hoard to create exactly the verbal tool he wanted. In his essays and letters, Lewis would sometimes coin a word–to borrow the image of the mint that Lewis sometimes used–though occasionally that new word existed obscurely elsewhere in English. Today, we’ll begin with one of Lewis’ more robust neologisms, Bulverism.
You may not have heard of Ezekiel Bulver simply because he never existed. In his “biography of an imaginary inventor,” Lewis describes how young Ezekiel’s destiny was sealed when he overheard his parents arguing. His father was certain that two sides of a triangle are together always larger than the third. His mother responded with the tu quoque, “Oh, you say that because you are a man.” Upon this knockdown argument, E. Bulver had an epiphany:
“…there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century (God in the Dock, 273).
This is “Bulverism,” a crucial move by poor debaters, pop psychologists, twitter evangelists, ideologues at large, and new generation politicians. The Bulveristic move is used to ignore the key steps of an argument and strike at the “real” issue: what sort of social moments or psychological factors make me certain the other person must be wrong? “Bulverism” as a phrase never stuck, though it is one of the only of Lewis’ made-up words to have its own Wikipedia entry , perhaps because it clarifies certain kind of logical fallacy. Despite its disappearance from the cultural word-hoard, Lewis was clearly prophetic on this point. We live in a Bulveristic moment of history, confirmed almost every time you hear phrases like “left-wing radical,” “fake news,” or “white male.”
Of course, I am probably just saying this because I’m a man.
 This was a new word as a metaphor when Ascham used it. Wycliffe used it in his translation of Ezek 9:11 in the 1380s, but Ascham’s usage here is earlier than the first OED metaphorical usage listing of 1577.
 In usage by the late 15th century.