JAN BROGAN - There's nothing like a little historical research to illuminate how much the English language has changed.
Not that I'm against a changing language. The Linguistic Society of America tells us that only dead languages stay the same. As well as that we should go ahead and split infinitives if we want to because the rule against them was based on one guy's decision in 1600 that English should more closely mimic Latin.
But I digress.
Despite my recognition that language should change, I'm here to mourn the loss of a words that were really cool in the 1800s or even a few decades ago. Words I want to bring back, and have people text on their cell phones, or post on Facebook. Words I just like for some completely irrational reason.
Obliged: I think I've talked about "obliged" before. But I just love that word. I am obliged to you. It signifies much more than simple thanks. I pretty much means I AM COMPLETELY AWARE THAT I OWE YOU FOR THIS. All in just a single word.
Regulating: In the 19th century, women didn't just clean their houses or their bedrooms. They cleaned and regulated them. Regulated meant putting them back in order, but I like the power it implies. It gives the person stuck with doing the work a bit of military control. They don't just shuffle things around, they REGULATE them.
Commenced: You didn't so much begin cooking dinner, as you commenced cooking dinner. And other people commenced doing things for you. There is no real reason I like this better than "begin," I just think it makes the action's start somehow more official.
Forenoon: Why can't we bring back forenoon? It actually means all of morning, betweeen sunrise and lunch, but I think it's a perfect way to describe late morning. Like right before lunch. And while we are at it: why not bring back...
Fortnight: There is no other one-word description for a 14-day period that I know of, so why say two-weeks when you can say fortnight?
Rugged: I like how they used to use rugged to describe the weather or the sea. As in the weather was rugged this morning. Now rugged seems destined only to describe men who have those perpetual five o'clock shadows and look off toward prairies or oceans or maybe football fields.
Vexatious: Why use vexing when you could use vexatious - which clearly spits out your meaning all the more emphatically. In the 1800s, though, they spelled it vexacious.
Countenance: What a perfect way to get at, not just what a person looks like physically, but what aura they are giving off. I first came across this word when I read in Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. Then I noticed it appeared frequently in nearly all of his short stories. That and "singular." But his use of singular always left me with a fuzzy understanding of what he was trying to say, where countenance was just perfect.
Ignominious: It's not that this word has disappeared from our vocabulary yet -- it's just that I really like it a lot and it does seem to be fading (you'd think everyone would be calling everyone else ignominious in an election year). So I think, in a effort to keep it in use, we should all apply it liberally, as in those ignominious paparazzi who took poor Kate's topless pictures. And those doctors, priests, camp counselors who keep getting caught with child pornography. And more recently, those replacement refs in the NFL. (Was anyone else outraged by the shameful calling of the Patriots/Ravens game?)
Imagine my delight when I googled lost words and found others in the universe who also pine (another great verb ) for good words gone by. At Wayne State University, they have made a mission of it, and even allow you to vote for words that need to be resurrected or protected -- like dinosaurs or piping plovers. Here's a list of the top vote getters in lost words: http://wordwarriors.wayne.edu/2011/index.php
So Reds, you can vote officially there, http://wordwarriors.wayne.edu/submit.php or you can vote unofficially here. Tell us favored words or expressions that we must keep from extinction.
And come back tomorrow, when our own Edith Maxwell guest posts about how when bad things can lead to great things! Her first mystery, Speaking of Murder, out on shelves now!