It’s time we resurrected our beautiful words of old
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.