Lost Words

Published 23rd February 2011
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Have you ever tried to broaden your horizons by reading an old book, only to find yourself completely lost in its unfamiliar vocabulary? Through the ages, many words have dropped out of common use, or have become obsolete. Luckily for those of us interested in these words and their meanings, Stephen Chrisomalis has set up The Phrontistery (http://phrontistery.info/mission.html), which contains a compendium of lost words. This free online dictionary takes definitions from the OED and is perfect for those occasions when you really can’t guess what that word means from the context.

The Phrontistery’s International House of Logorrhea is also of interest to anyone wishing to expand their vocabulary with a few weird and wonderful words. My personal favourite, found on the site, is ‘leiotrichous,’ meaning simply ‘straight-haired,’ although I quite like ‘labiomancy’ too, because it makes ‘lip reading’ sound much more glamorous.

Although it would make communication more difficult if all of these words were re-introduced into everyday language, I think some of them genuinely deserve to be. Take ‘aeipathy’ for instance, which means a ‘continued passion; unyielding disease.’ I think we need a neat antonym for ‘apathy’ – sure, there are other more common words which do the trick just as well, but this one just sounds and looks better, doesn’t it? Also, as Stephen rightly points out in the entry for ‘widdershins,’ we might just need some of these words again. For example when technology makes analogue clocks obsolete, ‘clockwise’ and ‘anticlockwise’ will become obsolete with them, meaning that ‘deasil’ and ‘widdershins’ may come back into fashion.

So, what are your favourite obsolete or infrequently-used words in your language, and what do they mean?

¿Alguna vez has intentado ampliar sus horizontes con la lectura de un libro antiguo y acabado completamente perdido en un vocabulario desconocido? A lo largo de los siglos, gran cantidad de  palabras han caído en desuso o han quedado obsoletas. Por suerte para aquellos de nosotros interesados en estas palabras y sus significados, Stephen Chrisomalis (profesor de antropología linguística en la Universidad de Wayne, EEUU) ha puesto en marcha The Phrontistery, un diccionario en línea gratuito que contiene un sumario de palabras perdidas o inusuales (http://phrontistery.info/mission.html), el cual recoge definiciones de la OED (Oxford English Diccionary) y es perfecto para esas ocasiones en las que resulta difícil acertar el significado de una palabra por su contexto.

The Phrontistery’s International House of Logorrhea es también interesante para aquellos que deseen ampliar su vocabulario con palabras extrañas y maravillosas. Personalmente, mi palabra favorita , qu se puede encontrara en la pagina web, es “leiotrichous”, que significa simplemente “straight-haired” (de pelo liso), aunque también me gusta bastante” labiomancy”, porque su pronunciación suena mucho más sofisticada.

Si todas estas palabras se volvieran a introducir en el lenguaje cotidiano, la comunicación resultaría más complicada, pero en mi opinión algunas de ellas realmente lo merecen. Por ejemplo ‘aeipathy’, que significa una “continued passion; unyielding disease” (en español pasión continua; enfermedad implacable). Pienso que necesitamos un antónimo claro para la palabra “apathy” (apatía) – Claro que hay otras palabras más comunes que cumplen el papel igual de bien, pero esta simplemente suena mejor, ¿no? Además, tal y como Stephen señala acertadamente en la entrada para “widdershins” (en español dirección opuesta al curso natural), quizás necesitemos recuperar algunas de estas palabras. Por ejemplo, en el momento en que los relojes analógicos queden obsoletos como consecuencia de los avances tecnológicos,  el término en inglés “clockwise” (movimiento en el sentido de las agujas del reloj), así como “anticlockwise’” (sentido contrario a las agujas del reloj) desaparecerán junto a adelantos, lo que significa que el uso de “deasil” y “widdershins” (dirección opuesta al curso natural) volverá a ponerse de moda.

Cuéntanos cuáles son tus palabras preferidas entre aquellas que han quedado obsoletas o son poco usadas en tu idioma.

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