Wordsmiths beware – the dictionary wardens are on the prowl!
Once-familiar terms, now considered old, redundant and unloved, are being rounded up and taken off to the grammatical equivalent of the knackers’ yard.
To be precise, they have been declared extinct and removed from some leading dictionaries.
It never occurred to me that old words were ditched to make way for new and invariably less attractive arrivals. I thought they were allowed to pass away with dignity; fading into genteel obscurity rather than callously being booted out of existence altogether.
Either that, or dictionaries just kept getting fatter and that certain words remained in the background of our lives until it was their time to become fashionable once again.
Take the wonderful term ‘uxoriousness,’ for example. It had lain ignored and criminally unappreciated in dictionaries all over the world for years until along came the late Oscar-winning film director, Anthony Minghella, to give it a new lease of life.
In his acceptance speech for The English Patient in 1996, he thanked his spouse for ‘showing me the true meaning of uxoriousness’ (which happens to be ‘excessively devoted to one’s wife.’)
I’d never heard the word before – but I haven’t stopped hearing it since. It rolls luxuriously around the tongue and now enhances any number of articles and broadcasts.
Minghella was a wordsmith of the highest order and could have been relied upon to save the language from such depredations. We must hope that ‘charabanc’ and ‘aerodrome’ are the subject of a similar rescue mission, now they have been placed on the endangered list and singled out for expulsion from the Collins Dictionary.
They have been bracketed together with such oddities as ‘supererogate,’ ‘succedaneum,’ and ‘wittol,’ all of which are unlikely to be resurrected in the future because they were rarely heard of in the past.
But charabanc and aerodrome are redolent of an earlier and gentler age, when travel was a romantic pleasure rather than a utilitarian necessity.
Companies and locations still exist with these words in their title, and aerodrome especially will always be a part of British life as long as people continue to talk or write about the Battle of Britain.
So Collins may have to think again. These words may disappear – but they won’t die.
The biggest pitfall for anyone appearing on a reality television show is that their true personality will always show through, no matter what.
They can strut into the Big Brother house throbbing with attitude and sparkling with faux bonhomie – but it’s not long before the image begins to crack and the real person is glimpsed beneath.
Sally Bercow illustrated the point perfectly.
Her clear intention was to portray herself as a thick-skinned alpha female; a tough, strident feminist who was impervious to personal calumny of any kind and who didn’t need anyone as she made her shrill, selfish and confident way through life.
A day later she was snivelling in the lavatory having been nominated for eviction by Kerry Katona.