Your Favorite Obscure Word Sucks
September 22, 2008 9:39 AM   Subscribe

The Times Online: Dictionary compilers at Collins have decided that the word list for the forthcoming edition of its largest volume is embrangled with words so obscure that they are linguistic recrement. Such words, they say, must be exuviated abstergently to make room for modern additions that will act as a roborant for the book.

If you use one of the endangered words enough, you may be able to save it from deleation.

Which word would you save?
posted by Sailormom (47 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
In before "cromulent".
posted by boo_radley at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2008


Paging desuetude...
posted by Mister_A at 9:45 AM on September 22, 2008


Marketing consultants at Collins have decided that the public, vocally sick of the yearly "OMFG, OMFG is in the dictionary" stories that are peddled around to every lazy hack on the planet and recycled as earnestly and diligently as if there was literally nothing else of consequence happening anywhere in the world at all, will be all smiles and approval if, instead of pretending to controversially add words to the lexicon, they pretend to controversially remove them.

...is what they actually meant, isn't it?
posted by Jofus at 9:46 AM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I get that this is a nice little publicity stunt and that nobody is taking it particularly seriously. But the notion that any dictionary publisher has the ability to "kill" a word, and that through its magnanimity it will "reprieve" one, is very irritating.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:47 AM on September 22, 2008


Because of the nature of this post, I couldn't tell if "...save it from deleation" was a typo or a real-yet-very-obscure word placed there in an effort to try to trick people into mistakenly correcting it.

Turns out it's a typo, which is a real shaem.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Roborant"? Is that what Bender applies to his armpits?
posted by exogenous at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


I was astounded at the reception I got using "fortnight" in conversation when in America. It wasn't even that it sounded antiquated like "forsooth", it was plain incomprehensible.
posted by bonaldi at 9:52 AM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Caducity.
posted by figment of my conation at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2008


According to a muliebrity at Exuviate University, it doesn't matter in what order the periapt in a word are, the only oppugnant thing is that the first and last letter be at the right caliginosity. The rest can be a total recrement and you can still read it without vaticinate. This is because the roborant mind does not read every embrangle by itself but the malison as a whole.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:57 AM on September 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Cormac McKeown, senior editor for Collins’s English dictionaries, said that he wanted to squeeze in as many words as possible but the influx of 2,000 new words meant there was not enough space. “We’ve been fiddling around with the typeface to try to get more in, but it is at saturation point. There is a trade-off between getting them in and legibility.”

Anyone else find it a wee bit ironic that in the digital and information age (i.e. the age of google), where the word count of any dictionary or other reference work is effectively unrestricted and whole libraries of content can be easily stored electronically, a dictionary publisher must cull its word count for space reasons? As a marketing tool, putting these rarefied "unused" words onto a CD and packaging it with the dictionary itself might be a good idea. Similarly, I think the OED offers access to its online version for subscribers? The real question is how much longer dictionaries will continue to sell in paper form.
posted by ornate insect at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


As long as dord stays in, we'll be okay.

...wait, they what?
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is exuviated really the word they're looking for here? It has connotations of hair and skin. It's a poor synonym for "discard."
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2008


There is something soothing, ornate insect, about having an actual physical dictionary on my desk. One of these days I plan to open it up and read some of the words printed therein.
posted by Mister_A at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2008


Maybe by "room in the dictionary" they don't mean literal storage space, which is hardly at a premium, but parameter space. There are only so many sequences of, say, 12 letters that will make a pronounceable word. Once you use them up...pfft, the world has to end (a la Clarke's story The Nine Billion Names of God).

For instance, we need to repurpose the word "embranged", which currently means "confused or tangled" and seems redundant with either word or the phrase "messed up". We could use that word to mean the state of feeling harried and disoriented by too many simultaneous phone calls.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2008


From Deletionapedia to Deletionictionary!
posted by GuyZero at 10:09 AM on September 22, 2008


There is something soothing, ornate insect, about having an actual physical dictionary

Oh, I agree, but then again I also feel that way about record albums (vinyl LPs as opposed to MP3 files), movie theaters (as opposed to DVD players), photo albums (as opposed to flikr), newspapers and encyclopedias (as opposed to the internet or wikipedia), actual conversations (as opposed to text messages), etc etc.

I'm not a luddite; I buy airline tickets online, I'm obviously on metafilter a lot, etc. But I think a lot of the nostalgia I have for paper or what have you will, in a generation or two, fade exactly like these words (that the dictionary is declaring too obscure or outmoded to matter) have faded.

For most purposes, reference publishing in general and the dictionary in particular, are especially vulnerable to competition from paperless publishing (the one exception being travel guides: in a foreign country I don't want to have to boot up to find a cafe). As a practical matter, spellcheck already virtually ended one formerly frequent use for dictionaries.
posted by ornate insect at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2008


Is exuviated really the word they're looking for here? It has connotations of hair and skin. It's a poor synonym for "discard."

It's a fair synonym for "shed", however; if their argument is that the words should, like so much dandruff, be scrubbed from the lexicon as with so much linguistically conservative Head & Shoulders, I'd say they're (unbelievably obnoxiously) in the right.
posted by cortex at 10:18 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every time a word dies, an angel loses something that I don't know the word for.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2008 [15 favorites]


As long as crenelate is protected, and stereobate. Why I just spent all weekend crenelating my stereobate and I must say, it's a hell of an improvement.
posted by philip-random at 10:29 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


"compossible"
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2008


I'm really surprised apodeictic and mansuetude are on the list; I've seen both of them used often enough I would have thought they'd be uncontroversial inclusions. But I don't see any Shock Horror here; the OED is the great repository of every word that's been caught in the wild, and other dictionaries can safely leave the obscurer reaches of the English vocabulary to it.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2008


Turns out it's a typo, which is a real shaem.

True, there's no deleation, but there is deleatur "A written direction or mark on a printed proof-sheet directing something to be struck out or omitted."
posted by languagehat at 10:45 AM on September 22, 2008


Surely there must've been a more interesting word to use for the headline than "sucks"...?
posted by thbt at 10:48 AM on September 22, 2008


I'll give you my harquebus when you erept it from my gelid, dead hands.
posted by milkrate at 10:52 AM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I used roborant in a play I wrote in 1992, and have noted it whenever it has turned up since. And it's really not that rare.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 AM on September 22, 2008


I'll tell you where there's room, my friends. In the empty heads of the Collins dictionary people, that's where. Heck, if they put words into that space they might have a decent dictionary.
posted by ewkpates at 11:04 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surely there must've been a more interesting word to use for the headline than "sucks"...?

nope.
posted by Sailormom at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2008


"In the end, we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it."
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2008


"In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we're not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there's no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It's merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won't be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect."
posted by greensweater at 11:19 AM on September 22, 2008


OMG LOL WTF FTW
posted by greensweater at 11:20 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Er, jinx?
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on September 22, 2008


They should auction off these words, don't you think?

I bid 40,000 American Lira for "Scrofulous."
posted by Mister_A at 11:36 AM on September 22, 2008


As a former Collins Dictionaries employee, I say: this is not news. Note that both Collins and The Times are owned by News International, so it's just a spot of internal marketing.

There was one word that fell out of the dictionary while I was there: perestroika. Its shelf-life was definitely up.
posted by scruss at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2008


*travels back in time, kills George Orwell*

*travels back to present*

Oh, shit, now they quote Dan Brown.
posted by cortex at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Callipygean. Bergan Evans taught me that word when I was 16 over Eggs Benedict at the Plaza Hotel Edwardian Room Restaurant, along with the raunchy verse about the sex life of a camel.

A roborant. Isn't that when Al Gore spews?
posted by nickyskye at 11:57 AM on September 22, 2008


I picked AGRESTIC because I watch too much television.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2008


Does this mean we have to stop doing things like this?
Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
pity.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2008


Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose cannot be deleted just like that...
posted by DreamerFi at 12:08 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is something soothing, ornate insect, about having an actual physical dictionary on my desk.

A physical dictionary can be thrown, preferably at someone.
posted by ghost of a past number at 12:38 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


With vitriolic vituperation must I vehemently and vociferously vow to veto the vapid vicissitude of a vast and valuable vocabulary via the vampiric vacation and villainous vanquishing (as vomit from viscera) of a voluminously varied and versatile verbiage.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:45 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm really surprised apodeictic and mansuetude are on the list; I've seen both of them used often enough I would have thought they'd be uncontroversial inclusions.

Yet another sign that languagehat runs in different circles than I.
posted by smackfu at 1:33 PM on September 22, 2008


"In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we're not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there's no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It's merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won't be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect."

This.

Also see: poetry, the concept of

I'm sad to see the sister-word to my handle, mansuetude, on the list. (Desuetude is actually pretty safe from, um, desuetude, since it is a legal term.) s(w)e- has an interesting etymology itself. (Get it! Itself! Okay, I'm a dork.)

...which brings to mind the other thing I love about these 50-cent words -- how they can inspire discovery of how the language works. The OED is an important resource, of course. But I didn't browse the OED while doing my spelling homework in third grade. I think there's much to be said for leaving obscure words in "regular" dictionaries as well.
posted by desuetude at 1:48 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the article: "Readers who vilipend the compilers’ decision and vaticinate that society will be poorer without little-used words have been offered a chance to save them from the endangered list. Collins, which is owned by News Corporation, parent company of The Times, has agreed that words will be granted a reprieve if evidence of their popularity emerges before February, when the word list is finalised. "

It is not surprising that News Corp has something behind this...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2008


Those administrator nazis at WikipediaChambers deleting articleswords that are of interest to people because of stupid rules like "obscurity".
posted by HaloMan at 1:57 PM on September 22, 2008


this is absolutely ridiculous. why would anybody want to get rid of any of these words? in the age of 8G microSD cards, what douches.
posted by liza at 5:43 PM on September 22, 2008


Surely if space is the problem it would be better to delete the words that are used all the time and that no-one will ever look up. Additional benefit: those are the ones that tend to take up the most space, since they have such a huge range of possible uses. ("Put", "in", etc.)
posted by No-sword at 6:13 PM on September 22, 2008


Vindictive provocative verbivores involved in subversive vent of overvalued verbiage.
posted by strangeguitars at 6:55 AM on September 23, 2008


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