Tag Archives: lost words

Lost Word Of The Day (41)

An uncle once advised me to become an undertaker, not because I had a suitably dour demeanour, but because you could be certain never to be out of work. Being too squeamish, I never fancied being a pollinctor, a person who prepared a dead body for burning, embalming, by washing and anointing, a direct import from the Latin noun. It was used by William Birnie in his The Blame of Kirk-buriall tending to perswade Cemeteriall Civilitie published in 1606. Whether it was a peculiarly Scottish usage, Ah dinnae ken.

Instead, I contented myself with laying out financial statements and insurance policies.

Lost Word Of The Day (40)

One of my (many) bugbears and enough to make me want to throw the TV controller at the secreen is the invasion of multiple into the English English language, when several or a more specific number would easily do. It is sloppiness, taking the easy way out when a more precise enumeration would give more sense to whatever is being described.

Of course, it does require there to be precise descriptors for each number. Perhaps it is time to revive words such as decuple, meaning groups of ten, or sedecuple, used in the 18th century to describe sixteen or sixteenfold. And don’t get me started on the use of the preposition “of” after myriad.

Lost Word Of The Day (39)

With between ten and twelve per cent of the world’s population being left-handed, it is appropriate that they should have their own International Day. August 13th, since you have asked. Left-handedness has long been associated in this right-hand dominated world with awkwardness, clumsiness, and misfortune.

Scaevity, a noun from the 17th century, brought these prejudices together into one word. Meaning not only left-handed but also unlucky. It was derived from the Latin adjective, scaevus, which had the same connotations. Unluckily for scaevity, it has long fallen out of use.     

Lost Word Of The Day (38)

Some words are so wonderful that you wonder why they ever sank into obscurity. One such is the adjective speustic which was used to denote something made, done, or especially cooked hastily as in I made a speustic meal to satisfy our unexpected guests. Perhaps the first syllable’s homophonic similarity to the consequences of partaking of an under-prepared meal led to its decline.

Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing some speustic food joints popping up in the not too distant future.   

Lost Word Of The Day (37)

For the fissiparous by nature there is nothing like a good schism, but what do you call someone who founds or leads a schism? A schismarch, of course, a word that has fallen out of use since its heyday in the 17th century.

One of the features never to be associated with a schismarch is mediocrity. They are either wildly successful or their movement is a damp squib. Opinion is divided as to whether that is a good thing.