Dead Words

Alas, we barely knew ye.

Language is constantly changing, as new words gain popularity and old ones start to disappear. Often, we don’t really notice when they’re gone, unless they’re specifically describing an object or piece of technology that’s become obsolete. But there are plenty of other words—nouns, adjectives, verbs, and more—that are silly, hilariously specific, or just plain fun to say… and yet we don’t use them anymore! Let’s take a linguistic leap back in time and explore these delightful words that have disappeared from the dictionary.

Snollygoster

Why oh why, would a word with such epic possibilities for widespread mockery fall into oblivion? This term may be related to the German word snallygaster, a reptilian beast that hunts kids and farm animals. A snollygoster is an unscrupulous politician—someone generally corrupt, unethical, and shameless. Such a handy term for contemporary times!

Jargogle

This is one of those terms that kind of performs its own definition. It sounds jarring and gets one a bit agog with curiosity. It means to confuse or bamboozle, and does just that since you’ve probably never heard of this word from the 1690s. Time to pull it back into modern jargon.

Apricity

“April is the cruellest month,” as T.S. Eliot put it in 1922 in The Waste Land. April is still winter weather, but it teases that you’re in spring. The ideal term for this is apricity, or “the warmth of sun in winter.” This term hails from 1623 but hasn’t gotten much modern usage despite its efficient euphony—that is, despite its pleasing sound and awesome reference to April.

Ultracrepidarian

Mark Forsyth searched old dictionaries for his book on obscure, forgotten words, The Horologicon. One of his favourites, and rightly so, is ultracrepidarian. It’s a very extra, or ultra, term for your average know-it-all. It’s the perfect descriptor for the person who has vast opinions on topics about which they know nothing—and comfortably yammers on about them.

Sanguinolency

This bizarre term has no obvious relation to the more upbeat word “sanguine,” which means “optimistic,” but secondarily, “ruddy.” That must be its tie to “sanguinolency” which has the dismal definition, “addiction to bloodshed.” Because this word is so old and obscure, it likely doesn’t refer to bloodshed of the video game variety. Of all the things to be addicted to, bloodshed seems one of the very worst.

Bibesy

This is an adorable, possibly 18th-century word that seems to play in a slang-y way on the word “imbibe.” It describes a seriously enthusiastic interest in drinking. Use it when you want to get bibesy with your bae on friyay! It fits perfectly with contemporary night-life argot.

Slubberdegullion

Here is another beautifully performative term that at its most base refers to one who slobbers. More precisely, however, a slubberdegullion must also be a “dirty fellow,” as well as worthless, careless, negligent, insignificant, and slovenly. Fifteenth-century vocab came at folks hard with the insults! Such a savage burn! Roasted!

Crinkum-crankum

This is basically when you get high key extra with the details. When your outfit or decor makes an over-the-top, elaborate effort to be hyper fancy, it is crinkum-crankum. This mid-17th-century term sounds so lit! Time to get crinkum-crankum back in circulation!

Snowbrowth

Now that the polar vortexes and other wintergeddon weather are in full swing, it’s time to pull this cute, obsolete term out of cold storage. Snowbrowth is simply melted snow. When you think about it, the fresh melt does look somewhat like a broth or a soupy snow stew covering the ground. Winter needs this word!

Snoutfair

It doesn’t even make sense that this word that conjures a pig face actually means “a person with a handsome countenance.” It makes sense that “snoutfair” fell to the wayside, and instead we say “hunk,” “hottie,” “stone cold fox,” “scooby snack,” “sexy beast,” and “cutie patootie.” Those aren’t fantastic, but frankly, “snoutfair,” is worse.

Curglaff

Think of a cold, harsh splash, and the strange merge of laughter and gurgling that comes after. Curglaff, of Scottish origin, is the absolute ideal term to describe “the shock felt when one first plunges into cold water.” In fact, it seems perfect for describing any kind of shock.

Spermologer

This is not a science word and does not refer to biology! It’s the witty term for a “gossip monger.” You can also use it to describe trivia hounds and those filled with random knowledge. A spermologer is a collector of sorts. Society is probably fine if this word continues its descent into obscurity.

Elflock

You know how when the elves tangle up your hair? Back in the 1590s, this hairstyle was called the elflock. Feel free to adapt the term for any of the creatures who matt up your hair. Think of the gnomelock, the yetilock, the dragonlock, the kelpielock, or the wolfmanlock. You get the idea! Remember the term is usually plural, so it requires more than one tangler or stylist.

Spell Check has drawn a bright red line beneath each of these words, saying that they don’t exist in reality…. all except Elflock.  That one, apparently, it recognizes.  Very interesting!

Book Review #6

MAGIC

Years ago, when I began reading science fiction, I was a nuts-and-bolts, spaceships-and-rayguns sci-fi fan.  Then a couple of my favored authors (both female) slipped into sword and sorcery.  I tried to follow, but I guess my structured, logical mind just didn’t wanna go there.  There seemed no “basis” for magic.  It just was, take it or leave it.  I left it.

Fast forward 40 years.  Times, and technology, and therefore writing, have changed.  In the last couple of years, the son has introduced me to four different sci-fi series wherein magic exists.  Quantum mechanics/entanglement and cosmic energy, along with parallel dimensions, justify magic, at least to me.

The last for me to read is from an author listed as Ilona Andrews.  It’s actually a husband and wife team.  She’s Ilona.  He’s Andrew.  She’s Russian.  He’s American.  No seductive superspy or licence to kill, she came to San Francisco to attend university, and they met at an English Composition course, where she outscored him.  (Where’s a licence to kill when you really need one?)   She writes the romance/sex/magic, and he takes care of guns, knives, bombs, vehicles and martial arts.

The son had acquired numbers 1, 3, and 5.  Recently he let Amazon fill in numbers 2 and 4, and number 6 will soon be released.  I’ll add them to my to-be-read pile, and get to them some time next year.

Two other series are both by the same author, Larry Correia.  The Hard Magic group are set in the Roaring Twenties era, a Raymond Chandler-esque alternate-history with Tommy gun-toting hoods, and airships instead of planes.  All people range from zero to adept at telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation etc.  Only a rare few can synthesize control over more than one talent.

His Monster Hunter series is modern-day and assumes the existence of werewolves, vampires, orcs and the like.  Silver-bullet armed groups are paid by the government to keep these away from the general population.  Non-threatening species like elves and gnomes are merely confined to reservations which resemble redneck trailer parks.  Social commentary, anyone?

The last group are the ones I’m going to (finally) review.  A female author has written several books intended for adolescent readers, but in doing so, perhaps unknowingly or unintentionally, she has written above expectations, and produced some adult-grade statements.

The Author – Wen Spencer

The Book(s) – Tinker – Wolf Who Rules – Elfhome

1-Tinker 2-Wolf Who Rules

3-Elfhome

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Review

I’m reviewing three books, because this trilogy of 550-page stories is actually one extended tale across several summer and fall months.  They can be read as stand-alone books.  Each one is carefully ended, but enjoyment and comprehension of #2 and #3 are greatly enhanced by the previous back-story.

Magic, in these stories, like cosmic rays, is ubiquitous, needing only to be gathered and controlled.  Small groups of parallel dimensions hang like bunches of tomatoes on a vine.  Those closest to the stalk receive the most magical power.  Poor Earth hangs out at the very end, receiving just enough to make magic the stuff of myths and legends.

Apparently a native of Pittsburgh, Spencer puts all of the action there.  Magic does what technology does, only faster, better, more powerfully.  Technology can harness magic, if you know how and where.  The magic is directed with crystals, or computer-printed spell sheets.  Of course, it can also be controlled with hand and arm postures, and initiated with voice vibrations, spell words, like the Weirding-module guns in Frank Herbert’s Dune book and movie.

Our teenage heroine’s grandfather produced a satellite which unwittingly causes the city to cycle from Earth to an alternate-Earth known as Elfhome.  On each such tomato-Earth in the bunch, a different, though similar, set of flora and fauna have evolved, with a different race at the top of the food-chain.

The magic-rich Elves, while not exactly immortal, live thousands of years.  There’s a world where sauroids learned to use magic, and essentially became intelligent dragons.  They, and others, can move from world to world.

The author is entranced with Asian culture.  She has the heroine in another book move to Japan to become a writer.  Aside from the action, these stories are much in the vein of Jonathan Swift’s, Gulliver’s Travels.  She uses satire and lampoon as social comment, to show the strengths and weaknesses of various cultures.

The regal and genteel, one-child-per-century Elves are the Japanese.  While they make a great show of manners, they are locked into a royal court and cultural rut, too slow to deal with the rapid social changes that inter-world travel has brought to them.  Everyone has their place, but, like the caste-ridden India, there is often no-one to fill newly-produced places.

The ill-mannered, pig-based Onihida, breeding faster than rabbits, busily consuming and corrupting their own world, as well as others, are the Chinese.  The diverse half-breeds are the Americans, able to use the magic to sprout wings and fly like birds, or trail like bloodhounds.

These are the tales of a wrecking-yard-owning Pittsburgh Cinderella, who rescues, and in turn is rescued by, her Elfin Prince Charming.  She uses quick wit and genius level intelligence to defeat the bad guys and save the day.  Through them all, the author cogently notes where our societies have come from, and where they might be going.

I found them good, solid reading, with lots of action and plot twists, and a reflection of life.