I love books. I have always loved books. From a very young age my parents taught me to appreciate great literature and instilled in me a love of the written word.
Between writing these columns for the past couple of years and what I do for a living in marketing, words are the building blocks that I rely on. Words are important.
That’s why it bothered me when I noticed that our vocabulary is slowly shrinking. Between emojis and abbreviations like BRB and LOL, it seems to me that a great many amazing words are no longer being used. We no longer write letters; we text or write a quick post on one of the social media sites. We rely on commonly used words and no longer craft what we write.
I do understand that language evolves and changes over time. If you don’t believe me, just try reading a newspaper from the 1800s or even the early 1900s. The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary claim to add approximately 1,000 words a year. Fun fact—they never remove a word from the dictionary. Just because it is no longer used doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to look the word up apparently. It does seem to me, however, we are losing a lot of the richness inherent in our language.
My wife was bringing out dinner the other night and asked if I wanted a dollop of cream on top of my food. Now there’s a great word that you never hear used anymore. I’m guessing this sentence nowadays would probably now come out more like, “You want me to dump some cream on your food?” How boring. How unimaginative.
I have started collecting fun and descriptive words that you rarely hear used any more.
Persnickety is a good example. I suppose you could use the word “picky” or “fussy,” but doesn’t “persnickety” sound so much more fun? Persnickety also isn’t the same as “picky” or “fussy.” It has a slight nuance of someone who’s picky with a kinda snobbish attitude about it that makes it a great word to use in the right context.
How about “quixotic”? It’s a word inspired by the famous book “Don Quixote” and it means “exceedingly idealistic.” I suppose you could say, “He’s out of touch with reality,” but saying, “His understanding of the current situation is rather quixotic” is so much more fun (don’t you just visualize Don Quixote on his horse tilting at windmills?).
“Highfalutin” is another great word you don’t hear anymore. Dictionary.com defines it as “pompous, bombastic, haughty or pretentious;” all good synonyms but highfalutin somehow has the connotation of “falsely pretentious” or someone who really isn’t superior but nonetheless puts on airs. The nuance is slight but important.
“Lackadaisical,” although most often defined as lazy or listless actually carries a note of smugness about it that other words don’t quite catch. “He’s just kinda lackadaisical about safety on the job,” just doesn’t convey the same meaning as, “He’s just kinda lazy about safety on the job.” Lackadaisical carries a note of carelessness combined with laziness.
“Lugubrious” means gloomy or sad but also includes a note of attitude with it that isn’t there when you say that someone is mournful. Lugubrious seems to denote a grumpy curmudgeon (another great word we rarely use).
Here’s one for you: “fudgel.” “My boss just fudgels at the office!” translates to “My boss just pretends to work rather than actually accomplishes anything meaningful.” Use “fudgel” instead of any other word and he probably won’t know you’re calling him out.
I don’t know that there is a solution to this obvious conundrum. I can’t even get people on Facebook to fix their typing when they use “your” instead of “you’re.”
Rob Vajko lives in Gig Harbor.