Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lost Words

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Via Mutantfrog and Ralph Luker, I found the Compendium of Lost Words, OED entries which have fallen out of use. Here are my nominations for "words we need now more than ever (except the last one)." I have replaced the original sample sentences with ones more relevant to modern life, to give a sense of just how useful these words might be.
  • A through E
  • agonarch n 1656 -1656
    judge of a contest or activity
    I've often wondered how I could get a job as a Reality TV agonarch.
  • aquabib n 1731-1883
    Since I gave up coffee, I've become a boring aquabib, but my seltzer budget has skyrocketed.
  • caprizant adj 1730 -1736
    of the pulse, uneven or irregular
    Syncopation in music is much more fun than caprizant EKGs.
  • circuland n 1821 -1821
    that which is to be circulated
    Most of what we call "memes" -- internet quizzes and the like -- we really should call "circulands" because they're not just free-floating ideas but are deliberately spread by "tagging."
  • F through M
  • hymnicide n 1862 -1862
    killing of hymns through alterations
    Modern churches seem to have no alternative to hymnicide, as newer liturgical music is often even worse than modifications to older stuff.
  • jobler n 1662 -1662
    one who does small jobs
    One of the problems of academia is over-production of PhDs, leading to a proliferation of joblers.
  • modernicide n 1774 -1774
    killing or killer of modern people
    Many anti-intellectual movements -- Khmer Rouge, jihadists, etc. -- engage in modernicide as policy.
  • N through R
  • odynometer n 1889 -1893
    instrument for measuring pain
    Without an odynometer, doctors must rely on patients' subjective reporting.
  • phlyarologist n 1867 -1867
    one who talks nonsense
    So many bloggers are phlyarologists that I fear for the future of humanity.
  • pudify v 1656 -1656
    to cause to be ashamed
    Though he had a respectable professional identity, he knew the revelation of his "sex-life/weight-loss" blog would pudify him.
  • S through Z
  • quibbleism n 1836 -1836
    practice of quibbling
    Among bloggers, many heated debates devolve into quibbleism, particularly linguistic.
  • schismarch n 1657 -1657
    founder of a schism
    There are no mediocre schismarchs, I think: either they are wildly successful and their followers venerate them for generations, or they are short-lived, pitiable failures.
  • speustic adj 1656 -1658
    made or baked in haste
    Much of my cooking is speustic, and modern prefabricated food and cooking ingredients make it easier than ever.
  • stagma n 1681 -1820
    any distilled liquor
    Though we are a long way past legal Temperance, and beer and wine are common accompaniments to food, there is still a stigma to stagma, particularly unmixed.
  • tortiloquy n 1656 -1656
    crooked speech
    The trick to political speechwriting is to clothe tortiloquy in hallowed images and insulate promises with conditions.
  • uglyography n 1804 -1834
    bad handwriting; poor spelling
    My policy is to take off points for uglyography only when it thoroughly obscures the meaning of the text.
  • vampirarchy n 1823 -1823
    set of rulers comparable to vampires
    I think vampirarchy is a much better description for our current administration than kleptocracy, because it is something inherent in their nature, rather than a character flaw, which is draining us dry.
  • venialia n 1654 -1654
    minor sins or offences
    We have replaced the traditional venalia -- dishonesty, cupidity, lechery -- with modern flaws such as "failure to diet," "impolitic expression" and "slow responder to electronic communications."
  • weequashing n 1888 -1902
    spearing of fish or eels by torchlight from canoes
    I suspect that weequashing is today more common among Pacific Island cultures than it is among Atlantic coastal communities.


Roy Berman said...

Great sample sentences. The next stage is to pick just a couple of your favorite lost words, or even just one (as painful as that may be) and start using it as much as possible in an attempt to revive it from the dead.

Ahistoricality said...

Thanks! And you're right.

Quibbleism and uglyography are probably going to be the easiest to revive. I don't talk about reality TV enough to make agonarch a credible threat. I could work schismarch into my lectures, probably, and vampirarchy into my letters-to-the-editor....

Anonymous said...

One I don't see on this list (maybe doesn't count as a "lost" word, but certainly an uncommon one currently):

Lucubrate: In modern terms, to pull an all-nighter (the more historically accurate definition is to stay up late working by candlelight)

Inday said...

Very interesting blog.

Now I know how to measure the pain in my heart that my doctor and even the cardiologist cannot defined or diagnosed after some strings and series of cardiac tests.

Maybe I should recommend to them to get an Odynometer instrument. I almost become an Uglyographer with my odynometer mispelt as odonymeter. Geee....

Bring back the old values!

Thanks a lot!