I have already mentioned Forthright’s Phrontistery, a compilation of “word lists on various topics”; today on MetaFilter there was a post by adamrice about a section of the site I had missed, the Compendium of Lost Words, “400 of the rarest modern English words—in fact, ones that have been entirely absent from the Internet, including all online dictionaries, until now.” It’s more fun than useful, since being absent from the internet is a pretty arbitrary distinction, but it is fun, as is the entire site.


  1. Thankyou. I am ecstaciated to find such a page.

  2. Most of the words seemed to be unsuccesful coinages from Latin, often rather jocular. Reminded me of Laurence Sterne and Rabelais.
    A recent author who does this is Peter Boodberg, the Orientalist/philologist. He coined Latin a few dozen phrases translating Chinese words supposedly untranslatable into English. He was very influential at UC Berkeley, as was his disciple Schafer, and you can track his students by their use of his coinages. The only one I can remember is “thearch” for the Chinese God/emperor. Boodberg wasn’t jocular though, he was sort of a crank.

  3. The blogger’s dilemma: to be rather jocular or sort of a crank? I try to mix and match.
    A former girlfriend of mine was a Sinologist, so I heard a lot about Ed Schafer (and learned words like “orpiment”). He was a very interesting guy, and I treasure his Golden Peaches of Samarkand. From the obit I linked to:
    Ed loved words above all else. His students quickly learned that approximations did not work: they had to determine whether a Chinese poet was talking about an azalea or a peony—”flowering bush” was not enough. An azalea meant something different from a peony to a medieval Chinese reader. He loved to stress that Shelley wrote an ode “To a Skylark,” not “To a Turkey.” One of his messages to the profession condemned the practice of leaving names and terms untranslated in otherwise Englished renderings—he called these “undigested lumps in the sinological pudding.”

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