Friday, November 5, 2010

Adopt an Obsolete Word, Save It From Extinction!

by Stephen J. Gertz

An archaic word is a terrible thing to waste and the Oxford English Dictionary is doing something about it, seeking foster homes for the abandoned senior-word set.

Each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English language, cruelly kicked to the curb for no other reason than they’ve fallen out of fashion and are considered old codgers unfit to roll off trendy tongues or keyboards. They become as rare as the books we talk about here on Booktryst.

Old words, wise words, working-stiff words, words to live by, words to die for, words that "once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved and unwanted." Victims of modern vocabulary, they wander the streets, homeless, derelicts in a twisted world that prefers its words in the lexicographical now, not the way back when. They don’t get enough exercise, have lost their strength and are losing their lease on life if they haven’t already succumbed to senescence to haunt the imaginations of the guilty for not doing enough to keep ‘em alive.

According to the good folks at the OED, everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words. We’ve all read examples where the writer seemed to have only fifty of them at their command (apologies to Kayne West), and listened to people who said the same thing over and over again in two words, often monosyllables (“That’s hot!”).

We need all the good words we can get. In language, nuance is everything and why waste ten vague words when one perfect one will do; avoid parisology at all or some costs. Not only do the good ones die young, they die old, their souls wandering aimlessly through the big dictionary in the sky, suicides that could not bear the loneliness of disuse, that were driven to despair and then drove themselves off the road and into eternal darkness. They are the over-the-hill symbolic salesmen of concepts, the Willy Lomans of Logosville.

Attention must be paid!

To prevent further tragedy, the OED has initiated an Adopt-a-Word program, Save The Words. Unlike Save the Children, no monthly stipend is necessary to keep them fed, off the streets, in school, and out of trouble, just your awareness and verbal and written support. You may even opt for a customized T-shirt to show the world you care, that this word – your word – is worthy of pride and slipping into everyday conversation or casual email.

The only downside is that you will never receive a letter from your word with news and thanks for all your help, accompanied by a photo of your word, doe-eyed and all smiles due to  your assistance.

You are not, apparently, limited to how many words you can adopt. If you so desire you can become the Mia Farrow or Angelina Jolie of word adoption and continue adopting them until you run out of room in the house, don’t have enough to say or write to keep them occupied and feeling as wanted and valuable as your other adoptees, or they outnumber the paparazzi that follow your every move and hang on every word, obsolete or otherwise.

Parenthood has never been so painless, logolepsy so pleasant. Don't perendinate, adopt now!

Three cheers for logoresurrection.

P.S.: Same-sex couples can adopt, no problem.

All images courtesy of Save the Words, with our thanks.

Thanks to LISNews for the lead.

A Booktryst bow at the waist to Luciferous Logolepsy.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this witty post! As a novelist writing from earlier centuries, I appreciate orphaned words.


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