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Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Right to Die?

Have you ever read 1984?

Do you remember the guy who was so excited that he was ruthlessly cutting words from the dictionary? Do you remember plusgood and ungood?

The site Savethewords.org is trying to prevent words from dying out.

Words like acrasial, ulvose, krioboly, pataerphobia, and tolfraedic are no longer in common use. In fact, they're so uncommon that most dictionaries don't recognize them as words at all. Save the Words wants people to adopt the words, to start using them again.

Granted, this means you need to know what the word means and how to use it, but the people at Save the Words have kindly included defintions on their website.

My question is this: Should the words be saved?

Part of the job of any writer is to make themselves understood in the written form. We want to be clear and concise. That means we need to use words that are understood by a broad spectrum of people. If the meaning of a word is not self-evident should we use that word?

Should we try to save ancient words that have fallen from use because they are no longer relevant?

Wouldn't that be like preserving some heinous tradition becuase, well, It's Traditional Dontcha' Know!

New words are added to the English language every year, can't we spare a few? Let some old ones die?

I have my opinion (and a new pet word that I think is completely relevant and up-to-date), what are yours?


  1. Language is fluid. I think it's fair game to explore "dying" words to see if they're worth saving--but not all are. If there's another, perhaps better word in usage, let the other die out. But, whenever possible, be as specific as you can, even if that means using a fading word.

  2. i've always thought i had a better-than-average vocab, but i didn't know any of those words up for "dying." wow. i'm going to go check out that site...

  3. Jeannie- I'll be honest, I had to look all of them up the first time. A lot of them are words from the Victorian era that just didn't cross over well into the modern social structure.

    Beth- Good point. If there's a better word, let the old one die. Actually, if we get to vote on which words to kill, there are a few in common use now I could live without.

  4. i say let em die, we just passed one million words in the english language, and more are added monthly, if not weekly, and many i'll never use

    some are worth preserving, but surely not all...