Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Word is Out

Britain has no equivalent to the Académie Française to protect its language and perhaps it does not need one given the prevalence of English. But as someone who loves words, I find the idea that several are on the brink of extinction very disturbing.

Of course words, unlike creatures or plants, can be brought back from the dead. Apparently certain entries in Dr Johnson's 1755 dictionary are making a comeback including: 'fopdoodle' (a fool; insignificant wretch); 'curtain-lecture' (a reproof given by a wife to her husband in bed); 'bedswerver' (one that is false to the other words a deceitful philandering git); the topical 'traveltainted' (harassed, fatigued with travel) and 'wordling' (a mortal set on profit); and my particular favourite 'perpotation' (the act of drinking largely).

However it is with great consternation that I report the threat to 24 words the Collins Dictionary is about to drop through lack of use. Personally I would rather a dictionary contained every word that ever existed and anything less was considered shortened or abridged or concise but there we are. Does anyone care? If they do I think we should start using some of these words and persuade the boffins at Collins that we will not let them go without a fight.

Unfortunately posts like this will not count as the subject is the campaign to save these words. However, if they are used elsewhere in print, broadcast and online before February there might just be a reprieve; a last minute call to the agrestic editor at Collins wielding an abstergent pen ordering him to stay the fatal striking out. I realise we are not saving lives or villages or rainforests or the planet here, and I do not wish to be oppugnant or become embrangled in controversy, but surely the two are compossible. Who knows when one of these nitid gems will serve to illuminate the caliginosity of our caducity and be a roborant in the days when our heards have turned griseous and we have become niddering and fubsy?

You have been warned. Use them or lose them.


The Scarlet Tree said...

This is horrible, how dare they pick out innocent words for execution with no public trial to speak of! The purpose of a dictionary is to hold the meanings of all the words that we may not know the meaning to. Old texts contain old words, if a dictionary doesn't have the words!

parisgirl said...

Dear Scarlet Tree, I am glad to see at least one other person thinks this is outrageous!

Helena said...

Ah, it is sad that we are losing old words. But we do also have Roger's Profanisaurus providing several thousand new ones.

Iota said...

Hello, I've just discovered your blog from Wife in the North (where I must admit I loved your brave comment, a lone voice in literally over 100).

Since this era of my muliebritic life is being spent in the griseous Midwest of America, I am far from you geographically. My brother lives in Paris, though (he's not at all fubsy, olid or niddering).

I'm enjoying reading your blog.

Iota said...

PS Have added you to my blogroll.

parisgirl said...

Helena, exactly my point; Dr Johnson and Roger are compossible!

Iota, welcome and thank you. Goodness you are a long way from home. At least I can pop back when I feel all fish-out-of-water-y. Does your brother like Paris?

Ingrid said...

I´ve just discovered your post from a blog as well. I´m an Australian in Austria and I I love your profile of how you view your life now. I feel the same. I live int he country and my way of coping is studying. Iam in the middle of a Masters in Applied Linguistics, so I loved your post on words disappearing. We learn about languages, but nothing yet about words......... Thankyou for a ncie read.

parisgirl said...

Thank you for your kind words Ingrid. Australia to are a long way from home. Keep using those words!