Breathing Life into Endangered Words

For the first time this year I have become aware of a process by which Collins retires words from their dictionaries following a factual appraisal of their disuse.

I love words and language and fully accept that, over time, words become redundant through cultural and physical evolution, retained only in colourful metaphor by chance. I am sure that many words used to describe the process surrounding Caxton’s first printing press have disappeared as the physical process became superseded by subsequent technological advances.

Yet also there are many words that fall into disuse through fashion ( falling out of) alone. I do not believe that we should accept the de facto abolition of such words that clearly have much life left in them – if only they were used. I therefore include a list of condemned words for my fellow wordsmiths and poets to consider, and perhaps utilise in their own contemporary work to facilitate the much deserved usage which some now appear to lack for no reason other than happenstance. Although I would not use the word “Aerodrome”, I, and I think many others, know what it is. The most surprising word on the list is “Charabanc” immortalised in the Stranglers hit single “Peaches”, a mere thirty years ago, yet still frequently played.

Any new poems which include the following words I would be delighted to learn of:

Alienism: The study and treatment of mental illness Best Before: 1920s
Rundle: A Liquid measure, usually about 15 gallons Best Before: 1920s
Wittol: Man who tolerates his wife’s unfaithfulness Best Before: 1940s
Supererogate: To do or perform more than is required. Best Before: 1900
Deliciate: To take one’s pleasure, enjoy oneself, revel, luxuriate
Brabble: to quarrel about trifles; especially to quarrel noisily, brawl, squabble
Kench: To laugh loudly
Bever: A snack between meals, such as those potato-based thingamajigs you usually get in a packet.
Aerodrome: A landing area, especially for private aircraft, usually smaller than an airport. Best Before: 1960s
Frigorific: Causing cold or freezing. Best Before: 1960s
Prick song: A piece of written vocal music. Best Before: 1970s
Younker: A younker was a young gentleman or knight Best Before: 1920s
Gilly gaupus: Awkward, foolish or silly person
Brannigan: A drinking bout, spree or “binge”
Hoddypeak :A fool, noodle or blockhead
Quagswagging: The action of shaking to and fro
Widdendream: A state of mental disturbance or confusion
Charabanc: A motor coach, especially one used for sightseeing tours Best Before: 1960s
Ludibrious: Apt to be a subject of jest or mockery
Jollux: Slang, used in the late 18th Century to describe a “fat person”
Growlery – a place to growl in
Foozle- to do clumsily, or bungle
Brabble – to noisily quarrel
Tea gown – a dress to be worn by ladies whilst taking tea!
Succedaneum, something used as a substitute
Muliebrity – Condition of being a woman
Vaticination– prophesy
Exuviate – Shed
Vilipend – treat with contempt
Skirr-which refers to the rattling, scratchy noise that a bird’s wings make during flight.
Caliginosity Dimness, darkness
Embrangle confuse or entangle
Fubsy – short and stout
Roborant tending to fortify
Nitid – Bright and glistening
Agrestic Rural,an aroma note or type which is ‘of the countryside,’ such as hay, heather, forest depths or meadow
Periapt Charm or amulet
Griseous – streaked or mixed with grey
Recrement– waste or refuse
Thorubos confused noise, riot, disturbance, din, hubbub, confused noise, outcry, …

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3 Responses to Breathing Life into Endangered Words

  1. marcusmoore says:

    Nice one, Gary.

    Wikipedia lists at least 28 airfields in the UK that have Aerodrome in their name.

    Although none of your list are included here – – you will find wagons and wares, both of which may be under threat in forthcoming rounds of cuts.

    • garylongden says:

      Thanks for that Marcus. I am no snob, I embrace new words, and accept the death of obsolete words. But Aerodrome is a word which is specifically associated with the golden age of flying. The Wright brothers flew from an Aerodrome, not an airport, and General Franco definitely flew from Croydon Aerodrome, not Croydon Airport.

      Furthermore Charabanc has a feel quite distinct from a bus.

  2. I will try to keep charabanc in use when I write my memories, although we rarely travelled in one.
    Wagon is one I use when I talk of my dad who owned and drove wagons, having started by driving horses for his father. I actually had to explain the word to some Americans when I was talking about him, found the nearest was truck.

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