9 old words for the modern age

Old manuscript page and the letter g

vocabulation

The use or choice of words.

This post is a meditation on vocabulation, particularly, old words that we may want to revivify for our current age of the Internet and excess.

octothorpe

The # symbol.

I learned this one from one of my journalism students who believes this is a much better term than “hashtag” and I agree. Do you? Then let’s get an octothorpe about this started on Twitter!

defenestrate

Throw through or out of the window.

This word is better-known than many of the others on this list, but I’m including it because it’s still pretty obscure. I learned it when I lived in Prague, and was shown by a helpful tour guide at the Castle where certain politicians were “defenestrated”, i.e., thrown out of a window, when their services were no longer required. Perhaps this is a term we should put back in practice?

unthew

A bad habit or custom; a vice [c. 900-1400]; unthewed, ill-mannered, unruly, wanton [1200- late 1300s], unthewful, unmannerly, unseemly [c. 1050-early 1300s].

This strikes me as a useful word that we could use a bit more while we’re looking at some of the crazy behavior we see, especially on the Internet. So the next time you spot a troll, you can call them “unthew” to put them in their place and confuse them at the same time.

blague
Humbug, hoax, pretense; [from] nineteenth-century French.

This one is particularly useful, given how much of this we have to deal with on the net.

shumpgullion

A glutton; one who over-indulges in and over-consumes food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste.

libberwort

Food or drink that makes one idle and stupid; food with no nutritional value, junk food.

Both of these strike me as useful, given our consumerist society. Possible uses: “Dude, I was a total shumpgullion last night. Too much libberwort!”

holer

A libertine (one who is unconstrained by convention or morality).

I like the word “libertine” but I’m always worried people think I mean the word “liberty” or “liberal” — they’re all from the same roots, of course. The use of holer is related to the previous two words, but it has the added benefit that most people will probably understand what you’re saying because of it sounds a little bit like “whore”. Of course, it’s better, because “holer” has lost its gender implications.

curmurring

A low rumbling sound; hence, the motion of the bowels, produced by flatulence, attended by such a sound; borborygmus; Scotch.

Murmuring, grumbling; sometimes applied to that motion of the intestines which is produced by slight gripes. This is one of those rhythmical sort of terms for which our ancestors had a peculiar predilection. It is compounded of Suio-Gothic (the ancient language of Sweden) kurr-a, to murmur.

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily about our current age, but my theory is you can’t have enough funny ways to describe farts.

Some of these come from the excellent word-nerd blogs: Obsolete Words and A Lackadaisical Lexicon for Laggard Logophiles. If you have other favorites words and resources, please leave them in the comments!

Alltop is such a funny holer, I’m curmurring my pants.

2 thoughts on “9 old words for the modern age

  1. Favourite old word? Sesquipedalian, words that are a foot and a long, long-winded like some of yours. http://www.etymonline.com/ is my tool of choice.

    For neologisms, to give you the opposite of what you ask: http://www.wordspy.com/ — entries like sicklit and datasexual.

    I like Octothorpe but I can’t see it catching on: “OctothorpeBeibersDeadHamster”.

  2. Yep, some of these are definitely polysyllabic, $5 words. Love the Wordspy site!

    I agree on octothorpe, but it is just so much more satisfying to say than hashtag.