Words We Should Bring Back

‘Stingo’ is an 18th century expression for strong beer brewed in the back of a pub. It’s a word that’s come back from the dead.

An ‘Antimacassar’ is the cloth that hangs on the back of an armchair to stop Macassar oil from marking the plush.

‘Secability’ meant it was cutable.

‘Molrowing’ was hanging out with dubious girls, but also wailing.

We think the variety of English first names has grown but in fact there were some terrific Victorian names, my favourite being ‘Brilliant’, but a whip along Victorian bookshelves reveals a plethora of gorgeous names like Hesketh, Meriwether, Zebulon, Lafe and Pleasant.

I was surprised to hear that ‘aggro’ disappeared twenty years ago. I quite like ‘bad’ as in ‘fault, as in ‘Hey, my bad.’

Language lives and breathes, but I want to revive a few moribund terms because they’re useful. I overuse the verb ‘ameliorate’ and it’s amazing how many people who didn’t know it soon start using it.

More words for resuscitation!

17 comments on “Words We Should Bring Back”

  1. Daniel says:

    Continuing from your mention of antimacassar, I’d like to see counterpane make a comeback. Calling a counterpane, or even an antimacassar, a “throw” seems so dull and utilitarian. My grandparents called them counterpanes, my parents called them bedspreads and my contemporaries call them throws. That’s a pretty quick change of description and one that, for once, I’m not in favour of.

  2. The problem with antimacassar and counterpane, which exist in French (as antimacassar and courtepointe), is that the things they represent have pretty much disappeared. To need an antimacassar, you first have to use macassar.

  3. Sparro says:

    …meaning covered in mud or similar. It was good enough for William Langland, descriptive of Piers Ploughman after a hard day’s work. It warrants revival.

  4. admin says:

    Yes, Patrick, but antimacassars still exist – on airplanes…

  5. Gretta says:

    Rest assured that ‘aggro’ has not died a death in the Antipodes and is still in regular use.

  6. Allan Lloyd says:

    Living on the Welsh border there are so many dialect words that were used by most working people in my youth but have no pretty well disappeared.
    Laipsed means much the same as beslommered (covered in something pretty unpleasant).

    Other favourites-

    oonty-twmps- mole hills
    myawkin- scarecrow
    ‘espled- confused, worked up, in a tizzy
    oolert- owl
    tollert- loft
    moithered- confused again but in a more laid-back way
    neshe- tender, as in feeling the cold badly
    kyine- well covered but not fat
    ‘arkners- ears

    I would love to write a Hereford/Radnor to English dictionary one day

  7. Okay. What about doilies? ^____^

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Doilies protect tables from potential marking by vases, lamps, etc. and are part of the excessive production by women with too much time on their hands and an unlimited supply of crochet thread. That is probably unfair to everyone concerned, but doilies are excess decor IMHO. Antimacassars, though, protect armchair backs from any kind of hair dressing. It’s not easy to remove any of that stuff but you can scrub antimacassars. They came in sets; one for the back and two for the arms of chairs. Your hands have oil and that soils the upholstery, too.
    There is also the gramophone, record player, hi fi, stereo, cd player historical record (hnh, hnh)
    The village pump as a term for gossip disappeared with piped water.
    Broad Scots terminology and some highlands as well infiltrated North America through the Hudson Bay Company which recruited through the highlands and islands. The influence goes fairly far south along the mountain spine and across the plains. Linguistics specialists have often said that the average Canadian accent is very Scots influenced. Kiwis have it, too, but it seems to have taken a different form.

  9. Sparro says:

    But Chris, there is little point in reviving the word ‘antimacassar’ unless these head-squares are used as a defence against such. That they appear on airplane and train seats doesn’t mean anything apart from a nod towards tradition.
    Afterall, cuff-buttons are still sewn to jackets, but cuffs rarely turn up, and one’s servants rarely wipe their noses on their sleeves, so sewing buttons to stop this foul habit is possibly not necessary any more….
    ..therefore I have to agree with Patrick Marcel’s diagnosis; ditto, doilies…..

  10. noonski says:

    This is a fine example of why I enjoy your blog, Christoper! I mean this with all respect: where else on the internet can one find a discussion about antimacassars!

  11. jigsawthis says:

    Of course if your head down to The Blue Anchor in Helton you’ll drink Spingo, not Stingo…

  12. jigsawthis says:

    Of course that should’ve said Helston. I blame too much Barum Original, Barum being the old word for Barnstaple, and one that certain people wish they could make obsolete in order to recreate is as part of the town’s heritage industry.

  13. Alan says:

    Oh for… dollies and antimacassars were a popular pastime pre-TV.

    How on Earth did they fill the time without printed word or the latest slash and burn Playstation game?

  14. Drew says:

    Every online gamer will assure you that “aggro” is still very much in use.

  15. J F Norris says:

    I like that word “molrowing.” Never heard it or seen it before and read loads of obscure old books. It’s so onomatopoetic if used as a synonym for “wailing.”

    Rather than hoping to revive apparently archaic or dead words I’m more interested in the long life of words I thought were relatively modern. I read a book published in 1919 and one of the characters used “dolt” as an insult. I always thought of it as a fairly recent put down – at least WW2 era.

  16. Gretta says:

    Can I volunteer ‘jeremiad’, which I’ve just come across today? It wasn’t even listed in my pocket Collins, but according to Miriam-Webster it means “a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue.” For some reason, it makes me think of Arthur and Raymond.

  17. Helen Martin says:

    Nice. You get both meanings sort of alternated.

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