Words that have gone out of style

The best part about language is that it changes all the time. The words you say today, will not be the same as tomorrow’s. This cycle of new utterances has caused language to evolve over time. From big changes such as The Great Vowel Shift, which caused all vowels in English to pretty much change, to minor changes such as whether or not to write an Oxford comma: the rules of language are fluid at best. One area of language most sensitive to change? Vocabulary. Words go out of style more quickly than the latest fashions. I found 10 words that I think are a shame that they are no longer part of the English language.

Now the words I am showing you today, may or may not have been widely spread in the English language. Most are from dialects that were around in the 19th century or much earlier than that. In any case, most words originate from a time when standard language wasn’t proposed to the masses and there was a lot more freedom to play around and make up random words. Some words still exist but meanings may have shifted. Because if a word doesn’t disappear altogether, it will change meanings during its lifetime.

blutterbunged (v)

To be confounded, overcome by surprise.

This word was used by a priest in Lincolnshire in the late 19th century. Far catchier than our more modern catchphrase now isn’t it?

bumwhush (n)

Ruin, obscurity, annihilation

A 19th century Scottish word for one hit wonder: ‘This is too often the way with people of great popularity; they have their day, and then go to the bumwhush’.

cabobble (v)

To mystify, puzzle, confuse

Originates from East Anglia/ Cornwall. Still to be found in the Urban Dictionary as a noun: ‘Things that are, sporadic, messy, disorganize, or crazy events’.

dangwallet (adj/ n)

Abundantly, excessively, plentifully/ a spendthrift

This has nothing to do with ‘dang I lost my wallet’. This word existed in Cheshire and when it was first written down by Joseph Wright in the 19th century it was considered an old word. It was also copied down by Nathaniel Bailey in 1749.

deosculation (n)

The act of kissing

Because you need a scientific sounding name for everything right? This word was part of Samuel Johnson’s infamous English dictionary, first published in 1755.

disquixotted (v)


Why only have one word, when you can have two? That’s probably what Mitford Mathews thought when he made this word part of his list of Americanisms in the mid 1950s.

faffle (n?)

This word doesn’t even have a modern English equivalent meaning that is short and sweet. All it comes with is a description by William Dickinson from the second half of the 19th century: ‘Said of work which occupies much time, the results not being satisfactory or commensurate with the labour and time expended on it’. Still around today in the meaning of ‘to stammer’. I can’t help but wonder whether this is where the phrase ‘to faff about’ comes from.

flurch (n)

A multitude/ great many

Used for things, not for people. Much like a ‘pack of dogs’, people from local English counties could refer to a flurch of strawberries and goes back to the Old English period. One of my personal favorites! Though I pity what has become of the meaning in more recent slang terms.

maffle (v)

To stammer, to stutter

Written down by Charles Mackay in Lost Beauties of the English language, published in 1874.

powfag (v?)

Again, this other personal favorite of mine only comes with a description rather than a modern day equivalent. Powfag means: ‘to tire bodily from overwork; to become worn out in mind from care or anxiety; to work to the point of exhaustion’. Can you just imagine feeling a burnout coming on and having to call into work sick and announce that you have been struck by a powfag? Neither do I… It is still used in modern day English to express being exhausted in Northern England dialects.

Source: Jeffrey Kacirk (2000). The Word Museum. Touchstone: New York.

Do you know any words that no longer exist?

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