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 bed...in 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.