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Save Our Words

Updated on January 15, 2013

WELCOME TO SAVE OUR WORDS

This place in space is devoted to preserving long lost words in the English language.

Saving archaic, obscure, and unusal words from extinction is a noble task no less than is the task of bringing the dodo bird, the dinosaur, or Neanderthal man back to life with the help of digital animation.

All that's required to ressurect these little gems from the pages of a dusty dictionary is to sprinkle them generously throughout one's conversation, add them to one's terse text messages, or even spice up the occasional piece of snail mail.

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Image Credit: Bromance - jeffreyhill.typepad.com/2008/09

Speaking of Neanderthal Man and Modern Man (a.k.a. Hunky Homo Sapien)...

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Image Credit: www.pritchettcartoons.com - linkman

According to Brown University researcher, Philip Lieberman, Neanderthal man was physiologically precluded from uttering certain basic sounds such as the "ee" sound of "bee", or the "oo" sound of "boot". Apparently, his speech, if it existed at all, would have been rather nasal-sounding and fairly imprecise. And while the purpose of language is to communicate, Neanderthal Man probably followed the KISS principle -- "I'm hungry. Let's hunt".

Homo sapiens on the other hand clearly outclassed their hopeless ancestors, the Neanderthals, by not only engaging in art of an astonishingly high quality and making complex tools, but also they possessed a linguistic system suffienciently sophisticated to deal with such concepts as, "Today, let's kill some red deer. You take some big sticks and drive the deer out of the woods and we'll stand by the riverbank with our spears and kill them as they come towards us." In, 2011, modern man with the assistance of technology has reduced this cumbersome communication to "let's order beer and pizza online and have a party."

According to Bill Bryson, a wonderful wordcrafter, "We have not the faintest idea whether the first words spoken were uttered 20,000 years ago or 200,000 years ago. What is certain is that mankind did little except procreate and survive for 100,000 generations." In fact, it was only about 30,000 years ago, that creative art work appeared on the cave walls at Lascaaux, lightweight tools were forged with the use and control of fire, not to mention all manner of other cooperative activities, and "it is unlikely that any of this could have been achieved without a fairly sophisticated system of language."

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Source: "The Mother Tongue English and How It Got That Way", by Bill Bryson, Harper Collins, New York, 2001, pp. 21-23.

SAVE THE WORDS - Voracious Verbivores Wanted!

SAVE THE WORDS is a wonderful website for wordlovers, wordpeckers, and wordwatchers.

It is a truly unique place where one may meet up with all manner of odd, strange, or unusual words. In fact, if one is feeling particularly inspired, one may officially adopt an infrequently used word with an accompanying commitment to attempt to use it as frequently as possible. When you cursor over the various words inside the square, (like the collage shown above), they begin to beg to be chosen. If you one clicks on a word, a definition of the word and an adoption agreement appear.

If you do not wish to adopt a particular word, simply left clicking on any other word will remove the current definition and display another for the next word. How could one possibly decline such a rare opportunity as this? Of course, one can adopt the word for oneself, or perhaps for a friend or family member (the more the merrier). Those who formally pledge to use their word also receive a certificate of adoption in the mail which is almost suitable for framing!

A Word or Two About the English Language

What is most often said about English, which sets it apart from other languages, is its richness of vocabularly. Webster's Third New International Dictionary has compiled approximately 450,000 words, while the revised Oxford English Dictionary lists approximately 615,000 words (but that is only part of the total). Millions more words can be added to this rich respository in the form of scientific and technical terms.

While, millions of words do indeed exist, only 200,000 or so are commonly used. All of this is quite amazing when you consider the fact that a few things had to happen before English became such a pervasive language spoken in more than 200 nations of the world. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (which is why a human can talk but one's canine can't), to the vast and versatile vocabularly of verbivores (who hang out in the temples of learning), is the story of how "an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants developed into one of the world's largest growth industries".

As Jeffrey Kacirk points out in the opening paragraph of his book, The Word Museum - The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Fogotten":

"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 roles, but not without a simultaneous yet imperceptible sacrifice of terms along the way. Fortunately, before their quiet disappearance, many of these reflections of antiquity, the 'remanants of history which casually escaped the shipwreck of time,' to use a phrase of Francis Bacon, were recorded in a variety of published and published writings, including dictionaries and glossaries."

Like writers before him, Kacirk appeals to his readers, not to mention poets and writers, "to consider resurrecting some of the more colorful but obscure words...by using them in place of their drab modern counterparts."

Language is a living entity, so it's not surprising that each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English language. As the creator of the online Wordlab.com forum said in a December 2010 posting: "Old words, wise words, hard-working words. Words that once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved and unwanted.

Today, 90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words. You can change all that. Help Save the Words!"

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"The Word Museum - The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten" by Jeffrey Kacirk, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000, p. 7-9.

CERTIFICATE OF ADOPTION - A replica of a Certificate of Adoption issued by "Save the Words" (www.savethewords.org)

When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart.

-- Rabindranath Tragore --

SAVE OUR WORDS POLL - Part 1

If you could save one endangered word from extinction, which of the following would it be?

See results

HOW TO KEEP WORDS ALIVE - Spread those obscure, peculiar, rare, strange, or weird words -- give them a home in your tome!

If you love to communicate -- you can't go far without words! And if you love words to woo a potential paramour, to whomp an odious opponent, or to write a wretched resume and find a job offering you life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then it's time to spread the word and save more than a few them from extinction through lack of use in conversation or written communication.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Meetings: forget about using the latest buzzwords (they get plenty of airtime). Why not think "outside the nidifice" and drop a few rarer words into the conversation like: "let's not engage in squiddle" (waste time with idle talk), "let's get down to brass tingle-nails" (the smallest kind of tack, a nail about one-quarter inch long), or "let's "umbecast" (consider) this matter before moving on to the next item on the agenda"; or after it's all over, why not say "Great meeting, let's do a bit of chinwagging at the tidliwink (a tavern, possibly where the game of tiddlywinks arose).

2) Pet Names: if you want your pet to stand out from the other canines, cats, and other curious critters, why not give him or her a marvelous moniker like: "Snirtle" (snicker), "Kexy" (dry, juiceless), or "Fizwig" (a frivolous female)

3) Letters: if you want to give your reader something to think about, avoid using cliches and common words which put most people to sleep. Why not consider writing something "fadoodle" (something foolish or nonsensical with all manner of Jabberwocky like Lewis Caroll did). For example, if you're flag-fallen" (unemployed), you might inquire whether the prospective employer has a place for a part-time "erendrake" (messenger), or one perhaps a position for a person experienced in the art of "dweomercraeft" (one who can juggle all manner of balls in the air and perform other sorts of magic tricks) -- and failing that, there's always the option of offering your services as an "earthapple" peeler.

4) Sandwich Boards: If you've ever wanted to draw attention to yourself and the sake of saving your favorite lost words, this is grand way to go about it. Just stand on a street corner with at least four obscure words on your personal billboard. Then ask people to guess the meaning or perhaps adopt it and take it home with them. -- To get things going, how about "donge" (mattress), "crunkle" (to cry like a crane), or "tuzzy-muzzy" (old English expression meaning a nosegay of flowers).

5) Conversations: Why not spice up your conversations about the weather. Instead of yammering about the possibility of precipitation, why not say you didn't bring your "parapluie" (umbrella, bumbershoot) to work because the welkin (sky with wooly clouds) didn't warrant it, or how much you love a blue "scrow" (sky) because there's no chance of precipitation and plenty of time for a bit of "beek" (sunbathing).

6) Sky-Writing: If you really must do something different to impress your lover, boss, or your new best friend -- rent a plane and drop a few new words you've written on pieces of paper ...sort of like pennies from heaven. Or if you saw the word "egrote" written across the sky, would you think the pilot a) can't spell, b) is a little 'under the weather' c) is incredibly intelligent or d) is feigning illness to get someone's attention?

7) Tattooing: It's definitely time to shift gears and forget about a tattoo paying homage to one's mother or expressing undying love to your last fling, "Daisy", following a long night out on the town with one's bosom buddies. How about "I love fonkins" (diminutive fools), "I'm no hoddypeak! (stupid blockhead)

8) Scrabble: Dazzle your friends with your new-found or long-lost words such as: lagomorph (gnawing mammal possessing two pairs of incisors in the upper jaw one behind the other and comprising the rabbits, hares, and pikas), quod (slang for prison), towmond (12th century Scottish word meaning year or 12th month).

9) Instant Messaging: hw abt if u snt da wrd isser (a wind-sucker), zuche (a tree stump),or widdershins (unlucky).

10) Emailing: Why not write a short email to your colleague like: "Who's bringing the bellytimber (food or provisions) for the "sparrow-fart" (early morning - 7:00 am) meeting tomorrow?"

11) Graffiti: This might be the best way to improve the taglines on your graffiti wall: devalgate (bow-legged), pilgarlic (a bald head that ressembles a peeled garlic clove), or exipotic (descriptive of a purgative designed to cleanse the body).

The Rare Words Book Shelf

The Superior Person's Book of Words
The Superior Person's Book of Words

A rather fine way to feast on found words like "groak", "papuliferous", and "nungatory"!

 
Depraved and Insulting English
Depraved and Insulting English

A curious and comical collection of weirdly wicked words your mother never taught you like "blissim", "feist", and "plooky".

 
The Disheveled Dictionary: A Curious Caper Through Our Sumptuous Lexicon
The Disheveled Dictionary: A Curious Caper Through Our Sumptuous Lexicon

Finally a female with a fantastic funnybone who is definitely at home with weaving weird words into a wicked "Weltanschauung".

 
The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way
The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way

A great book for that "know-it-all" in your life, or simply a wonderful way to learning lovely little facts about the English lanaguage and how it got that way.

 
Oxford English Dictionary: 20 vol. print set & CD ROM
Oxford English Dictionary: 20 vol. print set & CD ROM

Clearly these are not trifling tomes but full of weighty words compiled by great glossarists and learned lexicologists that definitely need to see the light of day before they disappear forever!

 

SAVE OUR WORDS POLL - Part 2 - This happy hunk is is doing his part to save a few lost words and souls everyday, what pray tell are you going to do?

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Image Credit: www.benettontalk.com

How many forgotten words do you intend to adopt or save this year?

See results

Words Worth Saving Bookshelf - Wanna find some forgotten words?

Whiffletrees and Goobers: 1,001 Fun and Fabulous Forgotten Words and Phrases
Whiffletrees and Goobers: 1,001 Fun and Fabulous Forgotten Words and Phrases

Frankly what's not to like about this lovely lexicon of lost words?

 
The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten
The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten

A titilating tome of treasured of titles - a perfect gift for the wordlover!

 
The Endangered English Dictionary: Bodacious Words Your Dictionary Forgot
The Endangered English Dictionary: Bodacious Words Your Dictionary Forgot

A bounty of beautiful bits and bites that have fallen through the cracks of common English usage.

 
The Gilded Tongue: Overly Eloquent Words for Everyday Things
The Gilded Tongue: Overly Eloquent Words for Everyday Things

Grandioloquent grandstanders, meretricious masters, and pontificating potentates will appreciate this little gem not to mention wise wordbirds.

 
Endangered Words: A Collection of Rare Gems for Book Lovers
Endangered Words: A Collection of Rare Gems for Book Lovers

If you've always wondered what all the fuss is about rare words -- you might find the answer in this book which seems to cover everything from acampserote to sprezzatura and zemblanity.

 

Feedback From Forgotten Word Lovers - Don't be shy, why not share the one favorite word you would like to save.

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    • profile image

      DonMcCyclist1 6 years ago

      Do you really think you can stop the evolution of a language? I mean hey we can get rid of "snollygaster"; we now have hashtag!!! What lexicographical cornucopia modern cyberspeak bequeaths!

      You've made a fun lens even if Quixotic.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Another favorite.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Lensrolled to Grumpy Grammar

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      I'm for sesquipedalian encounters, meself

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Adopting forgotten words... what a wonderful idea. I definitely think we should start using these again, especially 'bellytimber'! :)