words

By Denise Bloom

As the dictionary is now updated every year with new words such as buzzworthy, selfie and cake pop, do you ever wonder what happened to the terms and words that are no longer in common usage?

The next generation might have a language all of their own but inventing new terms and words dates back almost to the invention of language itself. The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary now lists more than 171,476 words including slang terms but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

There are also 47,156 obsolete words listed which is just a waste of a good language! So instead of inventing new words to enter the dictionary, why not pick out some of the slang used generations ago and have a language resurgence?

Obsolete Words from Yesteryear

1. Hugger-Mugger (1530s) Remember when David Cameron coined the phrase hug-a-hoodie? Well this phrase has nothing to do with hoodies or muggers or even hugs but could certainly describe someone like Cameron as it means to act in a secretive manner.

2. Jargogle (1690s) Meaning to confuse and perplex. If the words youngsters are using don’t make much sense to you, you can always bamboozle them with a little street slang of your own; “your language is jargogle to me.”

3. Twattle (1600s) To twattle is to indulge in idle gossip and is related to “prattle” which means to make annoying small talk. Insert either in the following sentence; “stop twattling and get on with some work!”

4. Gadzooks! (1690s) There was a time when swearing was considered the height of bad manners and so all manner of delightful words were ushered in to replace the stronger oaths. Gadzooks would have been used in front of respected company or women when you didn’t want to offend, although we can’t see anyone uttering “gadzooks!” when they stub their toe.

5. Weed (900) Before it became slang for a certain type of drug, weed was the outfit or band you wore during mourning. Now you can educate people as to its proper usage.

6. Lackaday (1685) If you were to express regret, grief or surprise then you might exclaim “Oh lackaday”. It literally means “alack the day”.

7. Snoutfair (1600s) You wouldn’t guess it but this word means someone who is handsome. Seriously.

8. Pussyvan (unknown) Now this is not what you think! A pussyvan is actually a tantrum.

9. Groak (1800s) The practice of a good groak is to watch someone eating whilst hoping they’ll offer you some.

10. Spermologer (unknown) There should be a prize for words which look they mean something completely different! A spermologer is someone who collects trivia – a know-it-all basically.

11. Queer Plungers (1811) This one gets the prize for not only the weirdest word but the weirdest meaning. It’s basically a scoundrel who would throw themselves into a river or lake and then be “rescued” by their accomplice who would take them to a nearby lodging for the recovery of drowned people and get a monetary reward for their effort. These are just some of the most curious obsolete words in the English language. Let’s all make a huge effort to bring them back into the mainstream and jargogle the younger generation!

If you found this article interesting you may like getting older and wiser a great article. There’s also another great post here for 8 famous songs about getting older.

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