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Bring ’em back alive: These words deserve wider use

January 1, 2010

‘Word Warriors’ is promoting the return of expressive but neglected words

Last year Wayne State University launched a Web site designed to recall some of the English language's most expressive words that have fallen out of use and deserve to return to conversation and prose.

Word Warriors is a list of neglected but eminently useful words that visitors to the site - and we - would like to bring back into fashion. And though a few of these words may never have been heard everyday, we believe they deserve to be.

"The English language is a spectacularly supple and precise, rich and capacious means of expressing ourselves, which is to say we've got plenty of great words," says Jerry Herron, dean of Wayne State University's Irvin D. Reid Honors College. "But those words are only as good as our ability to use them. We've got so many words to deal with, in fact, that often a truly wonderful and necessary word will just get overlooked, so that our ability to express ourselves is diminished. What Word Warriors aims to do is to enlist the aid of everybody who cares about words, to make sure we are not letting essential parts of our language fall silent. There is perhaps no finer pleasure-or greater fun-to be had than in an act of precise expression, and there's no better language to be doing that good work in than our own English. And that's what Word Warriors is aiming for-the pleasure of being able to say exactly what you mean."

The Word Warriors site (www.wordwarriors.wayne.edu) is a natural complement to the Lake Superior State yearly list of banished words. Wayne State solicits words from visitors to the site and allows them to vote on the current year's list. There is a word of the week and an annual list of words that WSU and visitors to the Word Warriors site feel should be used more often.

Fanfare, please. Here's the Word Warriors' 2010 list of sadly neglected but eminently useful words that should be brought back to enrich our language:

Antediluvian
Very old, old-fashioned, or out of date; antiquated; primitive. Literally "before the flood," referring by implication to the Biblical tale of Noah.
Though antediluvian by today's standards, the buggy whip was once at the forefront of transportation technology.

• Bamboozle
To cheat or steal.
Stop trying to bamboozle me out of my money!

• Bloviate
To speak at length in a pompous or boastful manner.
I was totally put off by the winning coaches' tendency to bloviate ad nauseam.

• Charlatan (shahr-luh-tn)
Quack. Imposter.
This guy claims his anti-aging cream really works, but I think he's just a charlatan.

• Concupiscence
Sexual desire or longing. Lust.
Too many political figures, drunk on power and the heady liquor of self-esteem, let concupiscence get the best of them.

• Festoon
To adorn or decorate, principally in a loop between two points.
After lunch we decided to festoon the tree with garlands of electric loons, moons, spoons, puccoons, cocoons, bassoons, baboons and vinegaroons.

• Galoshes (gə-lŏsh')
Waterproof shoes or boots. "Galoshes" may be said to be onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound they make when splashing through puddles.
In rainy weather like this I always wear my galoshes; they may be garish, but they keep my feet dry.

• Indefatigable (in-di-FAT-i-guh-bul)
Tireless; endlessly persistent.
The English privateer Francis Drake was indefatigable in his pursuit of Spanish gold.

• Insouciance (ĭn-sôô'sç-əns)
The quality of being carefree; a lack of concern.
We spent our two weeks at the beach in blissful insouciance, sleeping late and basking in the sun.

• Mendacity
Untruthfulness. Lying.
Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out and death's the other. (Tennessee Williams, American playwright, 1911-1983)

• Mercurial (mer-kyoor-ee-uhl)
Fickle; erratic.
She said she needed a break from trying to anticipate my mercurial moods. I haven't seen her in five years.

• Numinous
Awe-inspiring; profoundly moving; evocative of transcendence. (Despite what Webster's Dictionary says, it never presumes the supernatural.)
As the full moon rose in numinous splendor over Mount Kilimanjaro, Ernie was stricken speechless with wonder and joy.

• Quixotic (kwik-sot-ik)
Excessively romantic; visionary but unrealistic. Like Cervantes' Don Quixote.
Many cherished ideals of the 1960s now seem more quixotic than even remotely practical.

• Scuttle (verb)
A versatile verb meaning to sink a ship or boat deliberately; to sink figuratively, as to scuttle a project; or to scurry.
In 1939, the Germans scuttled the pocket battleship "Graf Spee" to keep the British from capturing her. ... OR ... When we turned on the light, mice scuttled under the furniture.

• Unctuous
Oily or greasy; unpleasantly polite and insincerely earnest.
The mediator was so unctuous that both sides found him impossible to work with.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 31,000 students.

  • Contact: Tom Reynolds
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  • Email: treynolds@wayne.edu
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