As a writer, it’s quite natural that I have an interest in words. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m familiar with quite a few of ’em. Which is not to say that I don’t use a thesaurus or a dictionary from time to time. But I’ve yet to see a thesaurus offer up one particular kind of word–the sincerely obscure variety.
And that’s a tragedy, because many so-called obsolete words are still perfectly good. Granted, not many folks will understand them, at least not right off the bat, but with continued usage, such familiarity could grow. And, I submit, it should be allowed to.
Here’s one: anonymoncle. This lovely noun, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED for the highbrow set, refers to a “small-time writer.” It is derived from “anonymous” and the Latin word, “homunculus,” meaning little man. As I’m a good six feet tall, and a bit <cough> portly, I hardly qualify as a “little” man. In one sense, anyway.
Although size might have something to do with my lack of grace when it comes to things terpsichorean, a word one can find in dictionaries as common as Webster’s, it’s the rare reader who will understand when I lament that I don’t waltz, I balter. (It’s dancing, yes, but done clumsily.) Paradoxically, I seem to move about on a dance floor somewhat less catastrophically if I’ve been consuming adult beverages. I’m told there are photos which prove this, but they’re under lock and key. With any luck, they’ll remain so.
Who among us doesn’t know of someone afflicted with empleomania. This charming noun refers to someone with an insatiable desire to hold public office. Lyndon LaRouche and Harold Stassen come readily to mind, but younger voters may not recognize their names. My favorite, Pat Paulsen, made presidential candidacy something of a career. And, considering some of the folks who’ve held the office since he first offered himself up for the post in 1968, he might have been a better choice.
I ran across an extremely useful word some time back that I’ve often been tempted to use in polite company. Thus far, I have resisted. The only dictionaries I’ve found which support this verbal gem are of the on-line only variety. The word is ignoranus. I mention this simply as a means to introduce a synonym of older vintage. To whit: bayard (n.), a person who sallies forth with the unquenchable confidence that can only come from profound ignorance. Seriously, how could we have let this word fall into disuse? It’s appalling, really.
Much as I’d like to continue pushing the envelop of obsolete words, I’ve probably come to a good stopping point. So I’ll close with but one more, which I hope is so clearly useful that no one could object to its use. The verb in question is fard, and it means to cover blemishes with cosmetics. I’ve known quite a few folks who regularly fard in public, often while driving. I’ve even seen a few farding at formal affairs.
More soon; I promise!