Here are some words that most English speakers have left behind. Which one(s) do you think might be worth the concerted effort to bring back into common usage?
Sometime in the 1800s the word quockerwodger (or quocker-wodger) appeared in English. Its literal meaning refers to a wooden toy whose legs and arms are connected loosely to its body, so that any movement at all causes it to flap around. This meaning was quickly eclipsed by the word’s figurative meaning: a politician whose strings are clearly pulled by someone else.
Spiv is British slang from the 1930s. It’s most likely derived from the word spiffy. It means a flashily dressed petty crook who does anything to avoid honest work. A disproven - yet intriguing - folk etymology is that a spiv is the opposite of a Very Important Person, so the pluralized acronym (VIPs) was reversed to create the word spiv.
About 1800 this French word made its way into English — gobemouche. It’s constructed of a word meaning housefly (mouche) & a word meaning swallow (gobe). This latter bit is related to words like gobsmacked & the phrase shut your gob! The word’s literal translation is flyswallower. A gobemouche is a painfully naive & gullible individual — amazed by the world, & therefore standing around with his/her mouth wide open.
A word born in the 1960s among the historical re-enactment crowd is farb. A farb is a historical re-enactor whose efforts don’t come close to authentic.
Blivet showed up in American English in the 1940s. It originally referred to a useless, superfluous, or unnecessary object. In time, it came to refer to a self-important person.
And likely coming from the word nit is the word nitnoid. A nitnoid is either a person who crushes the life out of something through nitpicking detail, or the detail itself. This word appeared in American English in the 1900s.
A blatteroon is a person who boasts, blathers & babbles (often about him/herself). Blatteroon appeared in English in the 1600s from a Latin word meaning babbler.
So which one(s) of these deserves a rebirth? Please let me know in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Oxford Reference, Merriam Webster, WorldWideWords, & Wordnik,
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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