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Should We Let Endangered Words Die?

by Anne Merritt Oct 6, 2011
Are words like aerodrome and woolfell worth keeping around?

With new words like overthink and bromance being added to standard dictionaries every year, things were bound to get crowded.

Collins Dictionary has compiled a list of English words that, in terms of common usage, are considered obsolete. Experts track word usage from an extensive database of spoken and written language, such as newspapers and websites. From this, they can track the evolution or phasing out of English words.

The “endangered” words on Collins’ list remain in their largest dictionary, but are no longer included in smaller published dictionaries.

Some of these words apply to items that are simply no longer in use, like a cyclogiro (a type of airplane) or charabanc (a model of motorcoach). These terms have value among specialists and historians, maybe even hipsters looking for a good band name, but will probably never be revived into common speech.

Some, however, sound pretty useful to me.

The word wittol, used for a man who tolerates his wife’s cheating, could class up the celebrity gossip sites. It sounds kinder than doormat.

Woolfell, the fleece and skin of a sheep or similar furry animal, must serve a technical purpose for the farming industry.

Clunkier words like succedaneum (a substitute) or supererogate (to do more than is required) are a mouthful, yes. Still, they might have a place somewhere in the 21st century. Say, on reruns of Frasier, or in the essays of well-meaning undergrads with thesaurus apps.

If nothing else, writers and language buffs get their kicks from little-used words. For more rare vocabulary, check out Matador’s 20 obsolete English words that should make a comeback, or “adopt” a little-used English word from Sure, language is meant to evolve, but isn’t malagrugruous more fun to say than shitty? * Story from the Guardian

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