Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Appeal for Lost Words: Kaija's Personal Opinion

As the future ruler of an ancient kingdom, I am often compelled to use words such as 'alas' and 'forsooth.' Indeed, if you were to walk into the throne room on any given afternoon, you might be forgiven for thinking you stepped through a portal into the 1600's rather than a magical portal to my kingdom.

All fallaciloquence aside, are words like fabrefaction and famelicose destined to be forever ficulnean, archived only in moulding books and dusty old Internet pages visited only by the linguistic elite and amateurs like me with nothing better to do with their time? Or should we give flosculation and gelicide another chance to be something more than archaic words underscored by the Red Squiggly Lines of Doom?

I think we should give these words another chance. They have not, in their dormancy, lost any relevance or meaning. People still speak falsely, and make things, and are hungry all the time, and there is still a certain kind of lack of substantialness that makes a thing all but worthless, people still use purple prose, and there are still flower-killing frosts. None of those things have fallen into obscurity in the time that the words originally designated to describe them have been in hibernation.

We are always looking to make ourselves better understood, and in this fast-paced world, we are always looking to do so in the shortest amount of time possible. That's why we exclaim, "OMG! LMAO!" instead of, "My goodness, that was a humorous moving image of a feline performing a trick typically associated with canines. Good man, friend Robert."

Strangely, one of the main arguments against reviving these words also concerns comprehensibility. For some reason, a certain percentage of people seem to think that the average indivudal wouldn't be able to understand a new word in context. If I were to tell you that my cat just jumped over my dog and I thought it was funnier than a votunitul, you wouldn't assume that a votunitul was a hot thing, or a big thing, or a dumb thing, or a thing having to do with airplanes. You'd figure out that it was a funny thing based on my usage of the word. It might trip you up for a moment or two, but it wouldn't throw you so off balance that you thought I was talking about mountains on Jupiter or something like that.

Now, votunitul is a word I just made up a few seconds ago. But graviloquence is a word they were using all the way back in 1656, and if I told you that the priest gave a beautiful graviloquence at my great-aunt's funeral, you wouldn't assume he did a gig or started talking about purple elephants. You'd probably figure out that graviloquence meant something along the lines of 'funeral speech' or 'grave speech,' which is exactly what it means.

I don't expect all of these words to make a sudden come-back tomorrow. Some of them have lost their meaning and their relevance. A homerkin is an archaic measure of beer that is rendered utterly useless by more precise measurements like ounces, liters, and pints. If you walked into the pub stone-cold sober and asked for a homerkin, they'd probably think you already had one homerkin too many.

Some of these words are beautiful, though, and I love them. Sure, they're all but dead, but they're not animals. They're fragile, exotic flowers that need a little bit of a green thumb to bring them back to life. I want to be that hand. I want you to be that hand. I want everyone to be that hand.

You can find an archive of these words right here. 

So go forth, my friends, with all good impigrity and prove to the world that these words are not, in fact, irredivivous.

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