Obsolete Words and How to Use Them

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent on Wednesdays as of late. I’m swamped with writing and editing, so I’m promising myself to post at least weekly on Sundays. But I’ll pop by on Wednesdays when I have something word-related (Amazing Words Wednesday!) to say.

I recently saw a great BuzzFeed article shared on Facebook: 27 Delightful Obsolete Words It’s High Time We Revived. It’s a fun and quick read, so head over and there and check it out. I’ll wait.

. . .

So did you find a favorite word?

I was familiar with a few, such as jargogle (to confuse/bamboozle), twattle (to gossip/talk idly), gorgonize (to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect), and Twitter-light (synonym for twilight). But there were surprises as well.

Here are my top 5 from their list and my own research about their origins.

Lethophobia. Lethophobia is the fear of oblivion, but it’s also sometimes defined as an abnormal anxiety of forgetting. Whether forgetting or being forgotten, lethophobia doesn’t sound like too much fun. Though that fear of oblivion is perhaps one of the reasons people are eager to be on even the silliest of reality shows. Lethophobia is certainly real.

And we have the Greeks to thank for this word. In Greek mythology, the river Lethe flowed in the Underworld (Hades), and anyone who drank from it experienced a loss of memory — forgetting their former life entirely. Indeed, Lethe was also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion. The word lethe itself simply means that — forgetfulness, oblivion, that where-did-I-put-my-keys feeling. And of course, a phobia is an irrational fear. Thus . . . lethophobia.

Sources: Wiki Answers, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica

Gorgonize. Speaking of Greek mythology, to gorgonize is to mesmerize or stupefy someone. The Gorgons were three sister monsters with snake hair who could turn a person into stone with a single look. Sound familiar? Yes, one of those sisters was named Medusa.

Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878.
Creepy, huh?

I don’t know who has this actual effect today. Maybe a hypnotist? Or that gorgeous guy you can’t stop eyeballing? Or perhaps it’s the video game screen; that seems to gorgonize my teenagers.

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Etymological Worm, Theoi Greek Mythology

Crapulous. To be crapulous is to feel sick from excessive eating or drinking. Although really, it’s best applied to drinking. The word derives from the Latin crapula (Really. I am not making this up.) which essentially refers to a hangover and hails from the 1530s. But don’t stop with simply using crapulous:

The morning after the Super Bowl, my slacker roommate felt crapulous.

Expand your horizons. Use these related words!

He schlepped through his day crapulously.

I can’t believe the frequency of his crapulousness.

The moment he walked through the door, I knew he was crapulent.

And his friends are always engaged in that crapulence.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary – crapulous

Brabble. Just consider some of your arguments with siblings when you were kids, or plenty of political pundit debates on radio and TV. To brabble is to squabble, particularly about something inconsequential. Brabble has been traced back to 1530 and comes from Middle Dutch.

We have plenty of words meaning argue, so why should you use brabble? Well, to join the likes of Shakespeare, of course!

First Officer:

“Here in the streets, desperate of shame and state,

In private brabble did we apprehend him.”

Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1

Sources: Merriam-WebsterShakespeare’s Non-Standard English: A Dictionary of His Informal LanguageTwelfth Night – Shakespeare.MIT.edu

Apricity. Here’s a word you’ll especially appreciate this time of year. Apricity is the warmth of the sun on a cold day. Have you enjoyed a moment of apricity lately? The word hails from the Latin apricus, which means exposed to the sun. It’s the same stem from which we (eventually) got the word apricot. The word is first referenced in a dictionary from the 1620s, but it no longer makes the cut in current dictionaries.

Which is a shame, because I could really use a word for that sense of sunny warmth as soon as I walk out from the coffee shop I’m currently in and emerge into the frigid (well, frigid for Texas) weather. I plan to revel in the apricity anyway.

Sources: Unused Words, Fritinancy

What obsolete words would you like to see used again? Which of the words from BuzzFeed’s list, or my top five list, are your favorites?

17 thoughts on “Obsolete Words and How to Use Them

  1. I still hear “twattle” used for gossiping sometimes. I don’t see “lunting” returning since so few people smoke pipes anymore. My grandfather was a lunter before he quit smoking. 😀

    1. (Yeah, I didn’t “twattle” was obsolete. I’ve heard it too.)

      I have a lunting character in one of my novels. I wonder if I should find a way to include that word… 🙂

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