Book Matters: How many dead, forgotten words do you know?

Book Matters: How many dead, forgotten words do you know?

By Teri Harman, Contributor | Posted - Jul. 27, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Every day, new words are born — with about 2,000 words added to the dictionary every year. But as new ones arise, others must die.

Jeffrey Kacirk, author of "The Word Museum," wrote, "The English language, as the largest and most dynamic collection of words and phrases ever assembled, continues to expand, absorbing hundreds of words annually into its official and unofficial rolls, but not without a simultaneous yet imperceptible sacrifice of terms along the way."

Dead, forgotten words or "intriguing vignettes of bygone eras" can tell a whole story about culture and society.

About a month ago, my husband gave me Kacirk's book as an anniversary gift, and I am completely fascinated with it. As a writer and avid reader, words are the medium through which I live my life. Words, to me, are not just a tool for communication, but a pure and glorious art. The right words change everything.

Think of the words you use every day. Think of the words you used in elementary school, high school, the words you use at work and at home.

When our oldest daughter was only 2 years old, she sat up to the computer and said, "I checkin' my email." When I was that age, the word "email" didn't even exist, and it didn't become a regular part of my vocabulary until high school. Think of the many other new words associated with technology that have only recently popped into our conversations: blog, texting, Googled, tweeted, podcast, IMs, apps, etc.

As these new words become common, other words are lost — like typewriter, VCR, cassette tape, floppies, etc. Our language is constantly changing. Some words stand the test of time while others fade out of common vernacular.

What is fascinating about words is how they open a tiny window into the life of the people who use them. Dead, forgotten words or "intriguing vignettes of bygone eras" can tell a whole story about culture and society. Karcirk, explaining how he chose the words for his book, wrote, "Specifically, my bias has been in favor of expression that not only offer insights into the nature of our living language but simultaneously illustrate beliefs and customs."

Book Calendar
  • Dolly's Bookstore: Author Maximillian Werner, July 29, 7 p.m., 510 Main St., Park City
  • The King's English Bookshop:
    • Author Elaine Gordon, July 28, 7 p.m.
    • Author Donna McAleer, Aug. 4, 7 p.m.
    • Author Marshall Ulrich, Aug. 6, 11 a.m.
    • Author Kiersten White, Aug. 6, 2 p.m. (I'll be at this one!), 1511 S. 1500 E.
  • Salt Lake City Library: author Will Kaufman, July 28, 7 p.m., 210 E. 400 S.
  • Provo City Library: author Kiersten White, Aug. 2, 6 p.m., 55 N. University Ave.

Read the list of words below, taken from Karcirk's book, and travel back in time. See if you can integrate a few of these abracadabrant words into your daily conversation and resurrect the ghosts of long-lost sentiments. Some, due to a high degree of fabulosity, are certainly worth bringing back.

Abracadabrant: Marvelous or stunning; from "abracadabra," a magic word used as a spell in the United States. Aflunters: In a state of disorder; "her hair was all aflunters."

Antipodes: People who live on the other side of the earth to us.

Belly-pinched: Starved or hungry.

Blutterbunged: Confounded, overcome by surprise.

Cockerate: To brag.

Cow-handed: Awkward .

Deosculation: The act of kissing.

Dog's soup: Rain water.

Fabulosity: The quality of being fabulous.

Flamfoo: A gaudily dressed female, one whose chief pleasure consists of dress.

Flurch: A multitude, a great many: spoken of things not persons, as a flurch of strawberries.

Gloppened: Surprised.

Haggersnash: A spiteful person.

Heart's attorney: The tongue .

Mawmsey: Sleepy; stupid as from want of rest or over-drinking.

Milklivered: Cowardly, faint-hearted.

Mouse-web: A cobweb; phlegm in the throat.

Ninny-broth: Popular name for coffee.

Ostentiferous: That which brings monsters or strange sights.

Pogonophobia: A fear of beards.

Quidnunc: An inquisitive person, always seeking for news.

Quother: To talk in a low and confidential tone.

Rumbustical: To make a clatter or disturbance.

Sandillions: Numbers like the sand on the seashore.

Shazzying: Dancing.

Shivviness: The feeling of roughness caused by a new undergarment.

Slotter: To make a noise with the palate while eating; to feed like an animal.

Snirtle: To attempt to suppress one's laughter; a short, suppressed laugh.

Swazz: To swagger.

Tazzled: Entangled; a rough, untidy head of hair.

Thrunched: Very angry, displeased.

Trinkle: To eavesdrop.

Verter-water: Water found in the hollows of tombstones and rocks, a charm for warts.

Woonkers: Interjection expressive of wonderment or surprise.

Next week: Nonfiction fiction fans will love

About the Author: Teri Harman -----------------------------

Teri Harman writes and reads from home amid the chaos of three young children.
For more book reviews and book fun, visit her blog at You can also follow Teri on Facebook (Book Matters) or Twitter (@bookmattersblog)

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