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posted on 14 Dec 2017

In Celebration Of Lost Words by Chi Luu

This article has been published on the JSTOR website. It begins:


Naughty, nice, 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 that some linguists are trying to make happen, 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” 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.

You can continue reading this article by clicking on this link to the JSTOR website