30 August 2011

words obsolete?

Last week the Independent carried an an item about words that are now obsolete according to the compilers of the Collins dictionary.

Other words which have passed out of use include "supererogate", which means to do or perform more than is required, while "succedaneum", something used as a substitute.

Language experts from Collins Dictionary have compiled a list of words which have fallen out of use by tracking how often they appear. These include wittol, a man who tolerates his wife's unfaithfulness, which has not been used much since the 1940s. "Drysalter", a dealer in certain chemical products and foods, "cyclogiro", a type of aircraft propelled by rotating blades, and "charabanc", a motor coach are all now considered obsolete.

The words consigned to history are those whose frequency of use falls below a certain threshold. "We track words using a very large database of language which is a very large collection of various texts from spoken and written language, including books, newspapers and magazines, so we can track language change over time," said Dr Ruth O'Donovan, asset development manager at Collins Language Division in Glasgow. "We track new words but we can also track for the frequency of existing words and when they get below a certain threshold we see them as being obsolete, though they may be used in very specialist circumstances," she added.

To be honest I had not heard of many of these words and the only one I have ever used frequently is charabanc. But then my parents are of an age where that word has meaning.

One word that is also included and quite surprises me is "aerodrome". know that it is not particularly common but I had no idea that it was obsolete!

Perhaps someone should tell the owners of Denham aerodrome in Buckinghamshire and Redhill aerodrome in Surrey! I daresay a Rex Warner novel does not know it has an obsolete title either!


SnoopyTheGoon said...

That's cool. Maybe these obsolete words could be recycled, given new meanings? I can see "supererogate", for instance, as a case of someone pissing someone else off more than humanly possible. Or summat.

jams o donnell said...

Now that's an excellent idea!

Anonymous said...

charabanc and aerodrome are the only two I have heard before. I intend using succedaneum in a sentence before the day is out

jams o donnell said...

It's a fine word isn't it. I think it deserves to be saved

CherryPie said...

Charabanc and aerodrome are words I use too. I have also heard of drysalter.

I think I will stick to my Chambers dictionary ;-)

jams o donnell said...

Me too Cherie. it's the OED shorter for me!