Word Warriors: Vocabulary puritans urged to focus on bringing back long-lost words

Each year, the list of newly-coined words is greeted with outrage by logophiles

Jamie Merrill
Tuesday 13 January 2015 20:17

Every year newly coined words, or neologisms, are included in dictionaries and greeted with outrage from vocabulary puritans.

Words like “mahoosive” (exceptionally large) and “globesity” (the worldwide outbreak of morbid obesity) have recently hit the headlines before retiring to obscurity.

This year though, logophiles are being encouraged by academics at Wayne State University in Michigan to instead focus on the “glorious variety” of long-lost words that have fallen out of favour with today’s lexicographers.

To further that aim the Word Warrior project has released a top 10 of lost words for 2015.

It includes rarely heard words such as “opsimath” and “subtopia” in an effort to draw attention to what writer and project leader Christopher Scott Williams calls “some of the English language’s most expressive – yet regrettably neglected – words.”

It is a project that British author Mark Forsyth, who recently released The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language, welcomes.

He said: “Of course some words deserve bringing back as we don’t have an equivalent word for them today.

“But I’m not so sure about words like knavery and caterwaul that I see have made the list; after all I still use them today. Are they really forgotten?

“I prefer bringing back old words that have a very specific use and could potentially catch on. For example, I use the word “poon”. It’s something to put under the leg of a table to stop it rocking and I ask for one every time I end up in a restaurant with a wobbly table. Because of the context, the waiter always understands exactly what I mean.”

The top 10 'lost words' of 2015

Caterwaul: A shrill howling or wailing noise.

Concinnity: The skilful and harmonious arrangement or fitting together of the different parts of something.

Knavery: A roguish or mischievous act.

Mélange: A mixture of different things.

Rapscallion: A mischievous person.

Opsimath: A person who begins to learn or study only late in life.

Obambulate: To walk about.

Philistine: A person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.

Flapdoodle: Nonsense.

Subtopia: Monotonous urban sprawl of standardised buildings.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments