Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dead Silence: When Part Of Our Language Dies.

SOS. We all know what it signifies. Trouble. Big Trouble.
At the literal level, when we try to unpack the acronym, we get Save Our Souls or Sick Of School or Same Old Song or Sounds Of Silence. Believe me, a shortage of "S" words, there isn't, as I posted just recently.

Generally, though, SOS is one of those acronyms, such as Qantas, that operates as a single unit, so no one feels the need to unpack the initials. Convenience like this usually wins in the end.

In the saving process, the one who saves is always considered worthy. Capsizing boats. Nosediving planes. But also beached whales, endangered species, heritage homes and coral reefs.

Now a new contender asking to be saved has arrived. ITS WORDS!! OLD WORDS...VERY OLD WORDS...Words on the point of oblivion. I have just finished reading an article that Collins Dictionary has launched a Save The Last Word Project for 24 near-extinct words that need public support if they're to hold onto their place on the page.

For a word, axing is the final stage of a long road called dying. First it gets marked as archaic which indicates hospice status. Then teams of lexicographers, like palliative care professionals, convene and consider. They look for evidence of the word's use and, now that we live in an electronic world, that's almost as easy to do as to say. While no one dresses in black or gets out the hymn books, the axing decision is not made lightly!

To pre-empt the death knell, Collins has enlisted the power of celebrity to help save words on the endangered list. Some well-knowns from the media, TV and politics are each adopting an endangered word.

Some examples:
Skirr: the sound made by a bird's wings in flight
Fubsy: short and stout; squat
Niddering: cowardly
Caliginosity: dimness; darkness
Fatidical: prophetic
Periapt: a charm or amulet

During the monitoring period (now until February next year)adopters are to champion their word by introducing it into as many public language opportunitis as they can.

On the Day of Reckoning, the decision to axe or not to axe will be made by Collins on the basis of how well the word has moved beyond its nominal champion's lexicon to a wider natural usage across a range of users and media.

It gives new meaning to "die hard"!!!

This is one of many photos I took at 'Sculpture by the Sea' yesterday.....I thought it was very appropriate to be included in this post.


McMGrad89 said...

Oh, no! Not niddering and caliginosity. Say it isn't so. (By the way, my computer already says they are not words in spell check.) What's next? Papilionaceous (having a bilaterally symmetrical corolla somewhat resembling a butterfly, characteristic of most plants of the pea family) or quaquaversal (turning or dipping in any or every direction)? What is an etymologist to do?

Ban together everyone!!! Save the dying words...Is there a fund? Shall we hold a simulcast concert from venues around the globe and call it WORD AID? Perhaps that would be too simplistic a name for such a complex cause.

Poetikat said...

I bemoan the loss of words from our English language. It seems the words we are making up of late are ridiculous, ludicrous and ineffectual. I have not heard of one of these words, but I am going to copy them in a notepad on my computer and begin to put them to use.

Thanks for making me aware of this.


P.S. Don't even get me started on words like "impact" as a verb.

Anonymous said...

'Niddering'- that sounds straight out of the 'Goon Show' (remember?)
Stimulating conversation but, for once, I had to turn off the background music- Cold Play's lyrics and your interesting article were conflicting with each other.
Yes- the Scrabble sculpture is very apt!CJ

avtcoach said...

So what you are saying my dear friend with the fatidical script is that to save these words we will need a good luck periapt. We should take these words out of their caliginosity and make sure the niddering word snatchers do not use their fubsy hands to erase this word list and send them to a slight skirr-like netherworld. :):)

miruspeg said...

Hey Hey, My My.....you are wonderful blog friends.....you all got it!
Talk about laughing out loud....the comments would have made an etymologist proud!

Anonymous said...

As a fellow lover of words, I'm glad you posted this. I must try harder to 'rehabilitate' them (!)

On the other hand - language is a dynamic thing, constantly evolving and changing. We may have to lose old words to make room for new ones. One thing that is curious is that some of our words (and often profanities) are hundreds of years old!

McMGrad89 said...

On the other hand, I am currently running a campaign to abolish the often mis-conjugated word converse. My ears bleed when I hear on television or while I am out and about people saying, "conversate." For example, "Me and this girl were conversating at the local Sack O Suds the other day." I have tried to explain to people that just because conversation is a word does not mean that conversate is its root. It usually falls on deaf ears, but I will prevail.


PS - Yes I know I said "Me and this girl..." yet another one of my pet peeves.

Genny said...

This was fascinating. And, as a writer, I love words!

JenX67 said...

Your posts are so smart. You remind me of my friend LK. I need to tell her to mosey on over here to your blog and have a gander. I htink it would be fun to write a post and use all those words you listed. I'll give it a try soon. Ha!

JenX67 said...

oh, and this reminds me of a boss who yelled at a historian we had working in air force public affairs after a RIF. (Reduction in Force). The Doc, (he had a Ph.D) as we called him, used the word piebald in the base paper.

AVT Coach said...

Okay my philosophical phrend. I am honoring you at my place with a Super Scribbler Award. I take these awards seriously and I want you to have this one. I think you are a superb writer and I have posted a favorite at my place. Come and see! There is a logo not a periapt. Sorry it's not a Fatidical Scribbler Award!

McMGrad89 said...

I came over to see if it was just me, but you too are experiencing dead silence from YOUR playlist. Just when I thought I knew what I was doing.