e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Redundancy and discount

I recently discovered that our language is full of obsolete words, threatened with removal from dictionaries and other places where words gather to be noticed.

drysalter coverAren’t they still needed? Can one write a historical novel without frigorific or charabanc? And how about the poets? Michael Symmons Roberts recently won the Costa Prize with a book called Drysalter, another threatened word.

I wonder sometimes how this rationalisation is managed. Perhaps the dictionary editors call the words into the office, one at a time, and tell them quietly, with overtones of regret, that they are no longer needed. Redundant! Having experienced the shock of the ‘we don’t need you’ moment, I can sympathise with those lackadaying words.

What sort of payout do they get? I’m not sure what the current requirement is, but if it’s a week’s pay for every year of work, then after a few centuries jargogle is going to get a good whack.

Does he have a leaving do? Or does he rush home and invest his money becoming self-employed, with an ad in Yellow Pages? Later he’ll send out flyers to historians and poets offering his services as a scene setter or a new rhyme. He’ll mention his hourly rate:

Anent this bargain price; ’tis discounted if you twattle me on Twitter.

Cover art from Goodreads.

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2 thoughts on “Redundancy and discount

  1. Now if we keep these old words how would we make room for these more interesting new words like phat, tweerking and such? 🙂

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    • Good point. I agree we have to have room for the new. Fortunately the internet can hold both so the old words can still lurk in the background on obscure lists. It would be interesting to see how many of the new words are still around or relegated to obscurity in, say, 50 years time.

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