Words we have lost over the centuries.

by Xandria 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • Xandria

    For those who are a stickler on language and grammar....

    The English language, like any other living thing, is continually in a state of change. Just as cells in our bodies die each day and are replaced with new ones, an almost imperceptible attrition in vocabulary regularly takes place, balancing the hundreds of fledgling terms that make their way into our conversations and dictionaries each year. Example of this change is the term: "Mcjob".

    Examples of words long dead:


    What?s forgotten about this word is its 16th century meaning which was ?an odd or inappropriate combination of two or more liquors, such as ale and wine? (or even beer and butter-milk). No one get any ideas here..


    In the 18th century this meant ?to administer to a horse a suppository made of raw ginger . . . to make the horse livelier?, usually when selling the animal. Livelier, indeed.

    Thus, you feaguing horse thief! Is a very good curse.


    A jarkman was a 16th century ?vagabond who used his literary talents underhandedly?. Able to read and write, some even knowing Latin, such educated beggars roamed the countryside selling counterfeit passes, licenses and other certificates with official-looking seals appended. The word was still in use in the 1830s.


    Again, what?s forgotten here is the word?s original meaning (in the 18th century) of the barrel (butt) on a ship from which drinking water could be scooped (scuttled); thus more generally ?a place for informal conversation?, then later ?gossip?.

    But for sheer irresistible appeal, both in its resonance and in its meaning, what can compare with the noun prick-me-dainty?

    A prick-me-dainty was a 16th century ?man-about town who coifed himself in an overly careful manner, frequently seeking the services of his barber, and who was . . . ridiculously exact in dress or carriage?. A dandy, in other words. Just try to slip that into a bar conversation...

    A survey of some words from the past which never quite made it into Modern English. The wonderful sounds these forgotten words make ? nimgimmer, tup-running, mocteroof, frubbish, grog-blossom, wayzgoose, galligaskin, sockdolager ? are half the fun. Their fabulous meanings, particularly those that seem inevitable once you learn them, make up the rest.

    Too bad it many words aren't in use anymore. We could have one tup-running conversation and no one would be the wiser.


  • NewSense

    Another thing that I find interesting is how the meaning of a word can change. For example, the word "aweful" used to mean "full of awe." The word "girl" used to mean a youth - a young person of either gender, not only female. And the word "spinster," a derogatory term now used for an unmarried woman who is past the age of marriage, used to deignate something far different. The word "spinster" used to mean a prostitute. Actually, the original meaning of "spinster" was simply that of a seamstress, or a woman who used a spinning wheel to make clothes. It seems that the men of the higher social classes who employed these women would often take them as mistresses or lovers.

    Words have traditionally reflected the values of the ruling class. For example, the word "heathen" originally meant someone who lived in the heath lands, the countryside far removed from the city. Likewise a "villain" used to mean someone who lived in a "ville" a small town far removed from the urban center. It seems that city people have always entertained the idea of country people as "hillbillies " or "shitkickers." Just consider how the word "urbane" (with an extra "e") means someone who is sophisticated and cultured. It is obviously closely related to "urban."

    Language also reflects he sexist nature of society. Just consider the words "bachelor" and "spinster." Their *denotations* are the same, and there is a correlation between their denotations. That is to say that they both denote unmarried people who have passed the age when they "should" have married. But their *connotations" are different. When you think of the word "bachelor" what ideas come to mind? If you're like most people, you will imagine a handsome, even dashing, debonair man driving an expensive car and travellinga round the word. He's too smart to let himself get "trapped" into marriage. He has succesfully resited the wiles of the women who tried to "snare" him. But, when you think of a spinster, you get an entirely different set of notions. Likewise, is there any "feminine" equivalent to terms such as "Don Juan," "Cassanova," or "man about town"? And just think of the words "father" and "mother" used as *verbs.* If I say, "He fathered the boy," it means that he is the biological father of the boy. Only one man can be said to have fathered the boy. But I can say, his sisters and aunts and grandmother all mothered him so much. Many women can mother a child, but only one man can father a child. As Shakespeare said, "Words, words, words." Words are fascinating.

  • NewSense

    In my previous post, it should read "travelling around the world." Sorry.

  • Leolaia

    NewSense....I loved your post. Have you studied linguistics? The English language is riddled with examples of sexism in how the female counterpart of a male-female pair is usually derogated in some way (e.g. king/quean "prostitute", governor/governess, and so forth). There is a great paper by Muriel Schulz on the subject. Did you know that in Old English, "lord" etymologically meant "guardian of the bread" and lady meant "kneader of the bread"?

    Just to add my own 5 cents, unless you were a farmer, you probably wouldn't know that the word "broadcast" originally refered to the manner of casting seed onto the ground.

    BTW, I am a member of the American Dialect Society and every year I vote on the best "Word of the Year" at the annual conference.

  • Xandria

    Words make the world go round.. and money well.. it has it's uses.


  • Carmel

    Balderdash! It ain't dead in our house!


  • Carmel

    Balderdash! It ain't dead in our house!


  • Mulan

    Here's another: Amanuensis

    It's a secretary.

    I have a whole list of occupations on my genealogy website. http://home.earthlink.net/~herblst/occupations.htm

  • Carmel

    mulan, if I'm right it's a personal secretary right?


  • simplesally

    My dad always tried to teach us to look for the root word of many words...........therefore getting a clue to the real meaning.

    His favorite was:




    try this link: http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us/lausd/resources/verbal.clues.with.latin/latinroots1.html

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