(Is it cowardly mildness to confuse foul-smelling, somewhat grey dross and should we be combative and prophetic by shedding the curse; treating with contempt these words worn out by their own senility?)
Is it feeble to get tangled up with these crap words; should we be modern and fight against the curse of pompous language and ditch these dying words?
George Orwell, of 1984 and Animal Farm fame, would think so:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
Collins English Dictionary agrees too it seems, because yesterday they announced that they are dropping all the above apparently obsolete words from their latest edition.
Orwell went on to say, in what should become everyone’s word-style bible, ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946):
“If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy…and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language..is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable….One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase….into the dustbin where it belongs.”
However, that well-known and, apparently, much loved English personality – actor, comedian, I am not sure how he describes himself these days – Stephen Fry has been championing one of the words which was given a last minute reprieve: fubsy.
It means short and stout and it can be found in books by the 19th. novelists , Jane Austen and R.D. Blackmore (the author of Lorna Doone).
Now Mr. Fry may be a touch on the stout side but he is definitely not short. In fact he errs somewhat on the side of the giants. Could his enthusiasm for the word be another weapon in his armoury? He is, after-all, a famously insecure man who often goes to great lengths to impress us with his much publicised intelligence.
A foot-note in Miss Austen’s works would enlighten any reader who does not share Mr. Fry’s enthusiasm for verbal one-upmanship.
I am with Orwell on this.
Words are about communication and enlightenment and should never be used to make other people feel stupid or to leave them in the dark, in a state of caliginosity – woops, there goes another obsolete word; it means darkness.
Academic books, political speeches, and the conversational style of some sadly insecure people are still, 60 years after Orwell’s essay, too often littered with over-complex and unnecessarily obscure phrases.
English is an ever-growing language though and, with every generation, new words enter our vocabulary just as those old ones leave it. In spite of that, we do need a dictionary to keep those fine sounding, linguistically interesting words available to us. They are part of the great heritage of our language and, who knows, they may just become popular playground slang for some future generation.
“Yo, olid recrement!”
“Malisons on you, you calliginous nidder!”