Did you ever wonder why the phrase “like the dickens” – as in “I stubbed my toe – it hurts like the dickens” – seems to have nothing to do with Charles Dickens?
Well, this is because the phrase pre-dates Charles Dickens and his work – in fact, it is found in the work of another writer, William Shakespeare.
When people say “it hurts like the dickens” they mean “it hurts like the devil” (i.e. A lot). This comes from the origin of the word “dickens” as euphemism for the word “devil”in Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare uses “dickens” in this context in the Merry Wives of Windsor with the line:
“I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of”