It Came From Behind The Shelf No.1

Reading & Writing

A new occasional series about the things I find down the backs of my bookshelves. We have a ridiculously minimalist home but there are still oddities tucked away and forgotten about behind the books.

I have no recollection of where this came from. It’s one of the oldest books I own, an English dictionary from the year 1787, when ‘S’ was still spelled ‘f’, and the words defined in it are virtual alien to modern eyes.

‘Agnomination’ is the allusion of one word to another, ‘But’yrous’ is buttery, ‘Cade’ is delicate or tender, ‘Deofculation’ is the act of killing, and so on.

It makes you realise that any period drama we see on TV is absurdly wrong in its dialogue, and the insertion of a few of these fine lost words wouldn’t go amiss – people are smart enough to discern their meanings, surely?

In the preface of the book it says; ”In the execution of the book I have confulted public utility, not only in fpeaking and writing Englifh, but in the frequent difappointments which a reader meets with in perufing our beft authors, both in verfe and profe, for want of an explanation of words peculiar to their leaned and much efteemed performances.’ How lovely is that?

15 comments on “It Came From Behind The Shelf No.1”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    How interesting that the letter “f” was used for the “s” in the 18th century. Seemingly at the start of a word or embeded with a word, but not at the end of a word: “means” in quoted passage.
    Somehow I have a fenfe that this may some how be imported from German type setters, like imported German royality across old Europe, but I’m fhort of time to research early Central European type-setting conventions.
    Interestingly, it seems there’s still a lot of “f”s used in 20th/21st century converation. As in: “Listen you f-ing idiot. Move your f-ing car out of my f-ing spot f-ing fast, or I’ll f-ing punch your f-ing face in in and one f-ing minute. Ka-pish?” Then politely: “Thanks an f-ing lot, Mifter Money Bagf.”

  2. Vickie says:

    OMG – what if there are germs on that old book? I hope you washed your hands after your apparent re-browse through it.

    (okay, I just finished The Hangman’s Daughter, historical novel/mystery which takes place in Bavaria in the mid-1600′s….not a particularly sanitary century, as least by our standards).

    I say, Dan, this is a relatively civilized fite…er, site. Was all that “f” ranting really necessary?

    And it’s “capice” (Italian, dude!)

  3. Steve says:

    I don’t know if this has always been the case, but nowadays it only takes a decade or two for olders and yougers to fail to comprehend each other. The language changes that fast – at least in this country. When I speak with a 20-something, many of my words (nevermind allusions) go straight over their spiky little heads; their “textspeak” goes right under my feet. I almost never text; and when I do I use actual words. Some of the currently popular phrases/words do the whole fingernails on a blackboard (ancient allusion there) to me – such as, “I know, right?” and “Really? really?” to express disbelief that someone’s said or done, well….whatever they’ve just said or done.
    And apropos of nothing other than a previous entry in this blog about historical accuracy – which actually come to think of it relates to the current entry as well – I was reading the third book of “A Song of Fire and Ice” a while back and came across a reference to someone getting their “pound of flesh”. Shakespeare in an alternate universe, an alternate universe that resembles the 13th century in this one? Really? really?

  4. Gretta says:

    “But’yrous” alone is a thing of beauty. Ironic since that first photo looked, upon first viewing, like a piece of toast.

  5. Madeline says:

    I fenfe that all this fing (or should that be ‘f’ or ‘s’)is making me found like Jonathan Roff.

    One of my greatest delights is coming across words I’ve never seen before and looking them up- in the last Bryant and May I came across one such word and gulped it down greedily!

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    Hey Vickie: didn’t mean to offend, but rather to comment on the frequency of a word that seems ever more used in common conversation. Not mine or my family’s, but by a lot of others. That word has become a multi-use adjective, adverb, verb and noun in conversation, unfortunately. It can be heard, it seems, all over in public entertainment,business, schools and discourse. It seems as frequent among teens & twenties as chewing gum once did. And I didn’t write the word out for fear of offending. So sorry: My bad. With Ka-pish I was going for the sound. I’m an Italian, but a Northern European mix.
    Last week an editor wrote me that I needed to update my characters’ conversations with swear words, if I wanted to be realistic and sell to people under 40. So, I am apparently out of date, sssah. Swear words were suggested.
    On another subject,now, I read The Hangman’s Daughter when it first came out and thought it was a good first novel, but long as German novels often are. (I have his second book on order.) But here’s the interesting thing. Amazon bought it from the German publisher and sold it under an Amazon imprint, it did really well, got sold to – I believe – Harcourt-Brace – who put it out immediately in hardcover (while it was selling in Amazon paper) and that publisher is now publishing his second book, onward. That whole journey seems most interesting and counter to what we’ve been reading in the news. Cheers.

  7. J F Norris says:

    Impressive. Love the words you chose, Chris.

    What happened to the richness of our 21st century language? Adverbs like “actually” get thrown into everyday speech supposedly to emphasize that something truly took place, but end up being filler. Awesome has lost all of its awesomeness in its overuse as an exclamation of delight rather than an adjective that was intended to convey the incomprehensible. Place your order in a cafe in Chicago and the waiter or waitress will say “Awesome!” Choosing a BLT is awesome? I roll my eyes every time. The semi-literate young people I work with constantly use the word “literally” when they mean “figuratively.” Or use it as a redundancy rather than for emphasis. Empty phrases like “that being said” keep cropping up in business-speak and drive me out of my head. Then there is the horrible trend of have nouns transforming into verbs. “To friend” really gets my goat, especially as it has absolutely nothing to do with befriending a real person. There should be a new term that describes the act of becoming a digital acquaintance via social networking. “Digitouch?” That seems more accurate. I offer it up for consideration.

    @Gretta (my separated at birth twin):
    “that first photo looked, upon first viewing, like a piece of toast.” [uproarious laughter over here in Chicago] I have a lot of old books in my collection, none as old as this, and none that could be mistaken for breakfast food.

  8. Steve says:

    J F:

    Bravo! I actually couldn’t agree more! Awesome! That being said, I literally think you’re worthy of friending!

  9. Gretta says:

    Madeline makes a very good point, and so henceforth I will call Jonathan Ross, Woffy.

    Dan, I’m with Ben Elton’s Gran(!) on the subject…”use it as an exclamation mark, not a comma.” OTT swearing just makes me think the person is a) too stupid to form a sentence, b) an attention seeker, or c) an attention seeker who is too stupid to form a sentence.

    JF, ‘literally’ is the one that gets on my wossnames. And business-speak is its own special evil. When I rule the world, saying ‘at the end of the day’ or ‘going forward’ will be a Tasering offence.

    I did see yesterday some screenshots of people on Twitter whose inability to use words correctly was more amusing than infuriating, however. Especially those who couldn’t differentiate between ‘cologne’ and ‘colon’. Or the one who spelt ambiance ‘umbeyonce’.

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    Last words: you guys who saw toast… well, you must eat some pretty scary toast. Looks more like a piece of tasty scrapple from Amish country to me. You may Wikipedia this, if you like. It’s really good, but it busts stain drugs all to heck and back.

  11. Dan Terrell says:

    Gurr… statin drugs, of course.
    I’ll investigate finger replacement on Monday. There must be a male legal secretary’s digits available on ebay

  12. Helen Martin says:

    I had to read Rasselas at university and the only copy the university library had was one printed before the letter s was regulated and gave a totally different feel to the reading of it. My grandmother was horrified that so “valuable” a book would be loaned out to a student. I figured if an undergrad could borrow it then it couldn’t be all that valuable, just old.
    Scrapple takes some getting used to, Dan.

  13. Richmonde says:

    Young people have talked in jargon and slang that’s irritating to everybody over 30 every year since the beginning of time. You’ll find it written on the pyramids: “When people spell Thutmose with a duck instead of a crocodile it makes me want to throw them to the sacred beasts!” Somehow the pyramids have stayed up.

  14. Anne Fernie says:

    Interesting that the slash which used to denote an English shilling e.g.5/- is an example of the ‘elongated s’ that survived until decimilisation (i.e. ‘s’ for shilling)…………
    ps: re hated words, the word ‘devastated’ to describe any upset from losing a cat to having one’s family wiped out. It has beeen going strong for a few years now and I hate it more than I can say…………

  15. Anne Fernie says:

    Ok, I spelt ‘decimalisation’ incorrectly……..

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