It’s time we res­ur­rected our beau­ti­ful words of old

The Daily Telegraph - - Features -

Lin­guis­tic ex­perts at the Uni­ver­sity of York have se­lected a group of 30 ob­so­lete English words that are hang­ing on by their phonemetips to the dictionary and which they con­sider ripe for re­vival. They in­clude “betrump” (which means to de­ceive or cheat, sug­gest­ing that some­where the et­y­mo­log­i­cal gods are try­ing to tell us some­thing); “dows­abel”, mean­ing “sweet­heart”, which is so lovely it should never have been let fall out of use; “rouzy­bouzy”, a vir­tu­ally ono­matopoeic word for “bois­ter­ously drunk”; and “ear-rent”, the fig­u­ra­tive cost of lis­ten­ing to triv­ial talk and which one can only won­der at our­selves, in the age of

Old words are more beau­ti­ful or evoca­tive than the al­ter­na­tives

Twit­ter, Face­book and re­al­ity tele­vi­sion, for hav­ing man­aged so long with­out.

There is some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about dis­in­ter­ring old words. Who wants to waste such pro­duce? Why throw away such ser­vice­able goods that still have years of wear in them? They of­ten pre­serve lit­tle bits of so­cial his­tory in them, like flies in am­ber – the York team also sug­gest “par­get”, which is the old word for plas­ter(ing) but was also used to mean the ap­pli­ca­tion of make-up, just as we re­fer to teens plas­ter­ing their faces with gunk now. Old words are of­ten more beau­ti­ful, evoca­tive or strik­ing than the al­ter­na­tives or cir­cum­lo­cu­tions that have grown up since then.

New coinages are most fre­quently de­scrip­tors of new tech­nol­ogy, fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments and other cold com­forts. The res­ur­rec­tion of old ones al­lows us to speak in warmer, sim­pler ways and to a warmer, sim­pler past.

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