griseous words in these embrangled times
By Venkata Vemuri
Indo-Asian News Service
London, Sep 22 (IANS) The life of words is not all that rosy.
If their first task is to get into the dictionary, the next
one is to stay on. That's a challenge, considering every new
edition of a dictionary has to sacrifice some to accommodate
scores of new ones.
Currently hanging in balance is the fate of 24 words of the
And The Times of London is making a last-ditch effort to extend
their life into the forthcoming edition of The Collins dictionary.
The editors at Collins have decided they can dispense with
the 24 rarely-used words listed below:
Abstergent: Cleansing or scouring
Agrestic: Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth
Apodeictic: Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
Caducity: Perishableness; senility
Caliginosity: Dimness; darkness
Compossible: Possible in coexistence with something else
Embrangle: To confuse or entangle
Exuviate: To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
Fubsy: Short and stout; squat
Griseous: Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey
Malison: A curse
Mansuetude: Gentleness or mildness
Muliebrity: The condition of being a woman
Nitid: Bright; glistening
Oppugnant: Combative, antagonistic or contrary
Periapt: A charm or amulet
Recrement: Waste matter; refuse; dross
Roborant: Tending to fortify or increase strength
Skirr: A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds
Vaticinate: To foretell; prophesy
Vilipend: To treat or regard with contempt
Dictionary compilers at Collins have decided that the word
list for the forthcoming edition of its largest volume is
embrangled with words so obscure that they are linguistic
recrement. Such words, they say, must be exuviated abstergently
to make room for modern additions that will act as a roborant
for the book.
Cormac McKeown, senior editor for Collins's English dictionaries,
said he wanted to squeeze in as many words as possible but
the influx of 2,000 new words meant there was not enough space.
"We've been fiddling around with the typeface to try
to get more in, but it is at saturation point. There is a
trade-off between getting them in and legibility."
The Times has decided to save these words, if possible. It
is asking its readers worldwide to save their favourite word
from among the list and vote for it on the Comment Central
weblog of its online edition.
Collins has agreed to the proposal, but has given warning
that it is not enough for the words to be used by their champions
alone. Endangered words must appear at least six times in
Collins's corpus, a database that records word usage in printed,
broadcast and online media.
Compilers will discount any references to words if they appear
in articles about the campaign to save them.
The campaign has taken off, literally.
Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, will support skirr, a word
he has occasionally used to describe the sound of beating
wings. "I'm a very keen bird-watcher," he told The
Times. "Birders do use this word from time to time so
I thought it might have a better chance than others, such
as vilipend. I saw 10,000 birds flying over the Wash in the
evening recently and the noise they made was a skirring noise."
Stephen Fry, the English humorist, actor, author and television
presenter, has chosen fubsy, which describes some of the contestants
on QI, the quiz show that he presents. He may be able to persuade
scriptwriters of "Kingdom", the drama in which he
plays the eponymous solicitor, to include the word in its
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, hopes
to revive niddering by using it in his speeches. "It
has a sort of withering contempt about it that is useful for
political invective," he said.
Stephen Pound, the Labour MP for Ealing North, will campaign
for caliginosity by ensuring that it appears in Hansard, the
British parliamentary record, and letters to his constituents.
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