Languages are living things that shift and evolve over time. If you look at the history of the English language, from Anglo Saxon through the Great Vowel Shift to what we consider Standard English today, you’ll notice that it has undergone some spectacular changes over the centuries. Some basic words have stuck around through the ages, like “father”, “house”, “egg”, “boat” and so on, but just as new words developed over time, other words were discarded along the way.
Many others from Shakespeare’s time through to the early 20th century have fallen out of common usage, and we are undoubtedly the poorer for it. Here are 20 words that could only serve to add a bit more colour to our daily lives if they happened to come back into regular use.
An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.
“Auntie Jane the cottage dweller” was my go-to bunbury whenever I wanted to take a day off to go play in the forest. Read More…
The following is an excerpt from The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead, in which author Charles Murray discusses words with meanings that have changed — and not always for the better.
Disinterested used to mean uninterested.
The meaning of disinterested is “free of bias and self-interest.” It is essential that a judge be disinterested, for example. Disinterested does NOT, repeat NOT, mean “lack of interest” or “uninterested.” I put this so emphatically because we’re not talking just about proper usage. Disinterest used in its correct sense is on its last legs—I’ve been appalled to see it misused in articles in the Washington Post and other major publications. English does not have another word that conveys the meaning of disinterested as economically. If we lose the distinctive meaning of the word, we have measurably degraded our ability to express ourselves in English.
Back in 2010 The New York Times published a list of 50 fancy words that most frequently stump their readership.
The New York Times 50 Fancy Words
(defined and used)
1. Inchoate: just begun and so not fully formed or developed
I am glad your inchoate proposals for integrating the company were not accepted this time, thus saving us face. Read More…
Paul V. Hartman
(The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)
alacrity a-LACK-ra-tee cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema a-NATH-a-ma a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne AN-a-dine not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull//anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism AFF-oar-ism a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate ah-POSS-tate (also: apostasy) person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate ARROW-gate to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic at-a-VIS-tic reverting to a primitive type
avuncular a-VUNC-you-lar “like an uncle”; benevolent