Paul Anthony Jones seeks to resurrect 366 old words

Paul Anthony Jones

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a new book written by Paul Anthony Jones….

I’ve just identified the first book I want to put on my Christmas 2017 list. It’s The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones (pictured above). I learned of it thanks to a BBC blog post forwarded to me by a friend. A lifelong word nerd, Jones blogs and tweets under the name Haggard Hawks and his new book contains 366 ‘forgotten’ words — one for each day of the week, plus a spare for leap years.

He found the words by scrolling through books like The Language of American Popular Entertainment and by pulling them out of obscure English dictionaries as well as slang and dialect dictionaries.

And the words are marvellous! Here are some examples:

Charette
A period of intense work or creative activity undertaken to meet a deadline. In the mid-19th Century, architecture students used to transport their sculptures and scale models in a small wheeled cart known as a ‘charette’. Their last-minute efforts to meet deadlines became known as working ‘en charette’ – ‘in the cart’.

Iddy-umpty
An affectionate term for Morse code, used in the early 1900s. ‘Umpty’ had been in use since the mid 19th Century as a slang term for an unspecified or seemingly impossibly large number. To that, speakers attached the apparently random prefix ‘iddy’ to form ‘iddy-umpty’, a word intended perhaps to imitate the stuttering sound of a Morse code transmission.

Schnapsidee (German)
A crazy or impractical idea that seems ingenious when you’re drunk.

Twankle
This is an older English term meaning  ‘to twang with the fingers on a music instrument’. Absentmindedly strumming or playing an instrument is also known as twiddling, twangling, tootling, noodling, plunking, thrummling and tudeling.

Posted November 27th, 2017 in Writing about writing