15 Sep 2017

Researchers want 'lost' English words brought back

6:31 pm on 15 September 2017

Have you ever heard of the words "snout-fair", "sillytonian" or "merry-go-sorry"?

Dictionary page saying vocabulary

Photo: 123RF

They're among a list of 30 lost English words uncovered by experts at York University which they believe still have a use today and should be brought back.

The team spent three months searching through old books and dictionaries to create the list.

Snout-fair is a word for handsome, dowsabel means "lady-love", and a "percher" is a social climber.

Dominic Watt, senior linguistics lecturer at the University of York, said he hoped people would re-engage with the language of old.

A few of the 'lost' words

  • Nickum: A cheating or dishonest person
  • Peacockize: To behave like a peacock; esp. to pose or strut ostentatiously
  • Rouzy-bouzy: Boisterously drunk
  • Ruff: To swagger, bluster, domineer. To ruff it out / to brag or boast of a thing
  • Tremblable Causing dread or horror; dreadful
  • Awhape To amaze, stupefy with fear, confound utterly
  • University of York/Privilege

    Mr Watt wants to bring these words back into modern conversations.

    "We've identified lost words that are both interesting and thought-provoking, in the hope of helping people re-engage with language of old," he said.

    "Snout-fair", for example, means "having a fair countenance; fair-faced, comely, handsome", while "sillytonian" refers to "a silly or gullible person, [especially] one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people".

    "Dowsabel" is "applied generically to a sweetheart, 'lady-love'".

    Margot Leadbetter, the snobby neighbour from 1970s BBC sitcom, The Good Life, could be seen as an arch example of a "percher" - someone "who aspires to a higher rank or status; an ambitious or self-assertive person".

    The BBC series Trust Me is the story of a "quacksalver" - a person who "dishonestly claims knowledge of, or skill in, medicine; a pedlar of false cures".

    The list of 30 "lost words" are grouped into three areas the researchers feel are relevant to modern life: post-truth (deception); appearance, personality and behaviour; and emotions.

    The final list also includes the words "ear-rent" - described as "the figurative cost to a person of listening to trivial or incessant talk", "slug-a-bed" - meaning "a person who lies in late", and "merry-go-sorry" - a phrase used to describe "a mixture of joy and sorrow".

    And there's "betrump" - meaning to deceive, cheat or elude.

    - BBC

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