Recently I learned about a web site (www.savethewords.org) that’s devoted to words that are becoming obsolete. It’s sponsored by the Oxford English Dictionary. The setup is great—the words appear in a big collage on the home page, in all different fonts, and when you scroll over them they call out to you in little goofy voices “Pick me! Me! No, me!” When you choose a word, you get its definition and see it used in a sentence.
Then—if it’s the word of your dreams—you can “adopt” it, which means you vow to help bring it back into everyday usage. Here’s the pledge you take:
“I hearby promise to use this word, in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible to the very best of my ability.”
Some of the words, though uncommon, sound like what they mean. Here are a few:
Boreism: behavior of a boring person
Slimikin: small and slender
Squireiferous: having the character or qualities of a gentleman
Recineration: second time a place or thing is burned down
But some of them are a bit more interesting, mostly because I would never have imagined that there are words that mean such specific, fascinating things. One, weequashing, is defined as “spearing fish or eels by torchlight from canoes.” So cool.
Here are a few more in the “Who knew?” category:
Mulomedic: relating to the medical care of mules
Ptochology: study of beggars and unemployment
Sinapistic: consisting of mustard
Oporopolist: fruit seller
Gutterniform: shaped like a water pitcher
On my first visit I adopted four words, and am already planning how to slip them into conversation. For the first, jussulent, meaning full of broth or soup, I just need to wait for minestrone night. The second, cloakatively, sounds Harry Potterish enough to be fun, and it’s a synonym for “superficially” so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place for it.
And here are my final two words, two words I could not allow to be lost, the ones that make my heart go pitter-patter:
Isangelous: equivalent to the angels
Pregnatress: female power that generates or gives birth to something
How to use them? I’m not sure yet. Surely in the near future some event or feeling of joy or gratitude will seem isangelous.
And pregnatress? Hmmm. Such a compelling word shouldn’t be wasted.