[Ads-l] Celebrating Lost Words - Chi Luu

Andy Bach afbach at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 12 18:02:55 EST 2017

On JStor

Naughty <https://www.jstor.org/stable/3296382?mag=celebration-lost-words>,
nice <https://www.jstor.org/stable/409719?mag=celebration-lost-words>, silly
sophisticated, awesome, awful… what do these words have in common? Perhaps
they could easily describe your before and after holiday festivities, but
their relatively bland semantics belie more curious origins.

They all happen to be lost words. In a sense, that is. Perhaps they’re not
quite the same as obsolete terms
<https://www.jstor.org/stable/27704044?mag=celebration-lost-words> that some
linguists are trying to make happen <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41266000>,
like “quacksalver” (a pedlar of false cures), “percher” (a snob who aspires
to higher status) and “dowsabel” (basically “bae” for an earlier, more
polysyllabic generation) that might awhape (stupefy with fear) you if
you’re forced to define them. Lost word (and food) enthusiast John L. Idol,
Jr is partial to “belly timber”
<https://www.jstor.org/stable/455032?mag=celebration-lost-words> and other
weird and obsolete food terms for the holiday season, such as “porknell,
gundygut, greedygut, bellygod and tenterbelly.” Unlike these, more familiar
words like naughty and nice are still used, and they’re now so commonplace
that we think we know exactly what they mean. “Naughty” is just
mild-mannered mischief, while “nice” is that inoffensive agreeableness that
serves all seasons. Simple, stable, solid semantics.
Chi Luu is a peripatetic linguist who speaks Australian English and studies
dead languages


Andy Bach,
afbach at gmail.com
608 658-1890 cell
608 261-5738 wk

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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