Monday, September 20, 2010

Word Soup

I love interesting, archaic, or bizarre words. From the time I was eight and convinced that Shakespearian English just meant throwing in the occasional "eth" on the end of verbs, as in "I am walkething to the shops", I have loved words. I even love made-up words and nonsense words, because they aren't  really nonsense if people get what they mean, right?  The following exchange is from The Simpsons:

Mrs. Krabappel: Embiggens? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield.
Ms. Hoover: I don't know why. It's a perfectly cromulent word.

Here are a few more perfectly cromulent words. These have the distinction that they are all real, and were all once in common usage:

1. Airling: a person who is both young and thoughtless.

I like this word. It is evocative. It implies a dreamer.

2. Anywhen: at any time.

Anywhere, anyhow, anyone, anything, how did we lose anywhen? Why did we lose anywhen?

 3. Chyrme: the mournful sound emitted by birds before a storm.

I didn’t know I needed a word for this, until I discovered it. How have I ever been able to hold a conversation about birds and/or storms without knowing this extremely useful word? As soon as I figure out how to pronounce it, I’m bringing it back.

4. Elflocks: knots of hair twisted by elves or fairies.

Actually, I’ve always used this word. I didn’t realise until I found it in a book of archaic English that I wasn’t supposed to know it. What else are you meant to call those knots that magically appear in a kid's hair five minutes after you brushed it?

5. Flychter: to run with outstretched arms, like a goose half-flying, the way that kids run to grown-ups they love.

This is another evocative one. And I wonder it if covers when kids run with outstretched arms down a gentle slope, and then gravity hits them and they can’t stop, and they slam face first into the ground like tiny little drunks. I hope it does. The old flychter-fail. 

 6. Blepharon : he that has great eyebrows.

I just like that one because it’s weird.

If you didn’t like this post then, in the words of Edmund Blackadder, I am minuspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused you such pericabobulations.

The above words come from The Word Museum, by Jeffrey Kacirk, available here at Amazon; except for airling, which comes from Reading the OED by Ammon Shea. Buy it here: Amazon.

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