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Save the language!

October 12, 2008

The Collins English Dictionary.  You may not have heard of it before.  Out of the major dictionaries of the UK, it is less well known than the Oxford English Dictionary or the Chambers Dictionary.   And internationally, nowhere near as well known as The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,  or the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

For its new edition, Collins are adding a further 2,000 new words.  And they have announced that they will be removing 24 words on the grounds of obscurity and disuetude.

But this is the age of American Idol and the public right to vote – Collins are offering the chance for these words to be saved.  In order to be saved,

Endangered words must appear at least six times in Collins’s corpus, a database that records word usage in printed, broadcast and online media.

Compilers will discount any references to words if they appear in articles about the campaign to save them.

A more cynical person might suggest that this is all merely a publicity stunt to raise the profile of the Collins Dictionary – indeed, that has all ready been suggested.

Regardless, the impoverishment of language is something that should be mourned, so here, for your edification and enjoyment, is the list of the 24 words facing excision, with definitions.  Perhaps you might consider using them in your work, or on your blog, and see if you can secure their continued existence in the Collins English Dictionary.

  • Abstergent: Cleansing or scouring
  • Agrestic: Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth
  • Apodeictic: Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
  • Caducity: Perishableness; senility
  • Caliginosity: Dimness; darkness
  • Compossible: Possible in coexistence with something else
  • Embrangle: To confuse or entangle
  • Exuviate: To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
  • Fatidical: Prophetic
  • Fubsy: Short and stout; squat
  • Griseous: Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey
  • Malison: A curse
  • Mansuetude: Gentleness or mildness
  • Muliebrity: The condition of being a woman
  • Niddering: Cowardly
  • Nitid: Bright; glistening
  • Olid: Foul-smelling
  • Oppugnant: Combative, antagonistic or contrary
  • Periapt: A charm or amulet
  • Recrement: Waste matter; refuse; dross
  • Roborant: Tending to fortify or increase strength
  • Skirr: A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
  • Vaticinate: To foretell; prophesy
  • Vilipend: To treat or regard with contempt
  1. October 12, 2008 4:10 am

    Well there’s at least a couple there I just might use – so I guess I’ll vote to save them! Must be showing my age!

  2. October 12, 2008 4:28 am

    well – skirr is well used in Scotland. I could easily use at least three or four of those words and will do so in the next day or so and link back to this post. Excellent post, thanks

  3. October 12, 2008 4:55 am

    I don’t mean to be oppugnant, but in South Africa, Collins is the most widely used dictionary, especially for students. And I’ve never seen an American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language!

    Thanks for a great post.

  4. October 12, 2008 2:11 pm

    Hello Everyone,
    Paul Thanks for the great article today on language and I only wish that I could remember new words better so that I could use them. I receive Emails daily from a site called Wordsmith to try and improve my vocabulary, but alas sometimes I think that it is hopeless, yet I continue to try!
    I always find it unusual when articles and thoughts come together and I saw this “thought for today” that seemed to be too much of a coincidence and I wanted to share it with all of you:
    “Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. -Roland Barthes, literary critic and philosopher (1915-1980)”
      Enjoy Life!

  5. October 12, 2008 10:28 pm

    wait.. “agrestic” actually ~means~ something? And here I thought is was just the name of a suburb where a widowed wife peddles weed… 🙂

  6. October 13, 2008 9:42 am

    Dusty Muffin I stand corrected! I believed it was apodeictic that Collins was not as well known, but it appears I was embrangled. I shall exuviate this idea from my mind at once!

  7. October 13, 2008 3:14 pm

    Paul, I vaticinate that the mansuetude of your response will bring out the best of my muliebrity.


  8. October 16, 2008 2:00 am

    I’ve written a poem using the word skirr –

  9. October 16, 2008 4:46 am

    What fun.

    Led to this blog by the charming poem by Crafty Green Poet I offer the following haiku and short diatribe:

    Embrangling brambles
    Caused the fubsy agrestics
    Exuviate flesh

    The malison of her muliebrity allows niddering males opportunity for oppugnant vilipend. It is apodeictic that the caliginosity of the agrestic embrangle periapts with mansuetude. Therefore, I vaticinate that when these fubsy, olid, griseous beards reach caducity and exuviate their mortal coils, the skirr of nitid angel’s wings will not be heard.

    Note: Each of the words to be expunged were underlined in this reply.

    All the best, Ron

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