Some griseous words in these embrangled times

September 22nd, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 22 (IANS) The life of words is not all that rosy. If their first task is to get into the dictionary, the next one is to stay on. That’s a challenge, considering every new edition of a dictionary has to sacrifice some to accommodate scores of new ones.Currently hanging in balance is the fate of 24 words of the Collins variety.

And The Times of London is making a last-ditch effort to extend their life into the forthcoming edition of The Collins dictionary.

The editors at Collins have decided they can dispense with the 24 rarely-used words listed below:

Abstergent: Cleansing or scouring

Agrestic: Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth

Apodeictic: Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration

Caducity: Perishableness; senility

Caliginosity: Dimness; darkness

Compossible: Possible in coexistence with something else

Embrangle: To confuse or entangle

Exuviate: To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)

Fatidical: Prophetic

Fubsy: Short and stout; squat

Griseous: Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey

Malison: A curse

Mansuetude: Gentleness or mildness

Muliebrity: The condition of being a woman

Niddering: Cowardly

Nitid: Bright; glistening

Olid: Foul-smelling

Oppugnant: Combative, antagonistic or contrary

Periapt: A charm or amulet

Recrement: Waste matter; refuse; dross

Roborant: Tending to fortify or increase strength

Skirr: A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight

Vaticinate: To foretell; prophesy

Vilipend: To treat or regard with contempt

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.

Cormac McKeown, senior editor for Collins’s English dictionaries, said 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.”

The Times has decided to save these words, if possible. It is asking its readers worldwide to save their favourite word from among the list and vote for it on the Comment Central weblog of its online edition.

Collins has agreed to the proposal, but has given warning that it is not enough for the words to be used by their champions alone. Endangered words must appear at least six times in Collins’s corpus, a database that records word usage in printed, broadcast and online media.

Compilers will discount any references to words if they appear in articles about the campaign to save them.

The campaign has taken off, literally.

Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, will support skirr, a word he has occasionally used to describe the sound of beating wings. “I’m a very keen bird-watcher,” he told The Times. “Birders do use this word from time to time so I thought it might have a better chance than others, such as vilipend. I saw 10,000 birds flying over the Wash in the evening recently and the noise they made was a skirring noise.”

Stephen Fry, the English humorist, actor, author and television presenter, has chosen fubsy, which describes some of the contestants on QI, the quiz show that he presents. He may be able to persuade scriptwriters of “Kingdom”, the drama in which he plays the eponymous solicitor, to include the word in its third series.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, hopes to revive niddering by using it in his speeches. “It has a sort of withering contempt about it that is useful for political invective,” he said.

Stephen Pound, the Labour MP for Ealing North, will campaign for caliginosity by ensuring that it appears in Hansard, the British parliamentary record, and letters to his constituents.

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