Reviving forgotten words –Andrea Lacy

The Oxford English Dictionary is a record of English words from Old English to the present day, and includes many obsolete and historical terms. Once a word makes it into the OED database,it’s there for ever. Oxford Dictionaries,on the other hand,only include words which are in common use,and words which have fallen out of use are removed.

Words become obsolete when they stop being used entirely,or are just used infrequently,for example in historical dramas and books. Periodically,forgotten words will sometimes be revived,perhaps because they have a new relevance. Kim Jong-un called Donald Trump a ‘dotard’,meaning elderly and weak,reviving this 14th Century word.

Linguists at the University of York are trying to revive 30 words which they feel have regained relevance. These include:‘to betrump’ meaning to deceive or cheat;‘slug-a-bed’ meaning someone who lingers in bed;‘ear- rent’ meaning the personal cost to someone of listening to incessant chatter and ‘percher’ meaning someone who is ambitious for greater status. I personally would like to revive the term ‘snowbroth’,meaning freshly melted snow.

Some years ago,the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped words which children were no longer using. These included ‘conker’,‘pasture’ and ‘lark’,which are obviously all words relating to nature. These words were replaced with technological terms such as ‘chatroom’,‘blog’ and ‘MP3-player’. As shared owners of our language,it is up to us to ensure that words representing concepts or objects that we care about don’t become forgotten.

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