Saturday, November 8, 2014

What Are Words For?

The Oxford English Dictionary has had such a large role in defining the English language (see what I did there? Nyuk nyuk!) that for awhile around the turn of the previous century, they actually published a book that defined words that didn't make it into the OED because they were too local, too rarely used or too outdated.

As the good folk at Mental Floss note, the sixth and final edition of The English Dialect Dictionary, published in 1905, contained 70,000 words -- meaning the runner-up bracket for the OED had as many words as a whole lot of abridged regular dictionaries.

They've collected 50 of them and encourage people to try to work them into conversation, seeing if we can't place them back into regular English usage. Several on the list would have immediate application, it seems clear to me. No. 20, "inisitijitty," is very apt in connection with a cable television network spokesperson explaining to me why I should buy his or her company's premium channels.

No. 15, "eedle-doddle," describes someone unable to act decisively in a crisis. Few better descriptions of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can be conceived. But I would recommend the usage of eedle-doddle only if you intend to use its companion word denoting someone unable to act correctly in a crisis, "Gingrich."

No. 18, "floby-mobly," describes the feeling of not being necessarily sick, but definitely less than your best. "That's it!" the American electorate shouted as one this past Wednesday morning, realizing that though they had indeed thrown many of the bums out of office, the Law of Electoral Conservation of Bums states that for every bum defeated, there is an equal and opposite bum elected. Or in some cases, the electorate may have felt downright "dauncy" (No. 13) about the aftermath of their voting.

I would go on, but the contemplation of electoral politics has rendered me in need of as many nipperkins (No. 26) as I can get my hands on.

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