WAMBLY WORDS.

A Times (London) story by Jack Malvern, “Linguists all a-muckwash and fratching over lost words,” begins:

Sceptics from Norfolk may blar at the idea, while Devon folk may dismiss it as zamzoden, but linguists have begun an investigation into whether regional dialect words are dead or, as they used to say in Lancashire, merely wambly.
Seven local dialect societies have each provided dictionary compilers at Collins with a list of three words that they believe to be endangered or out of use except by language enthusiasts. None has appeared in the database of written and broadcast media that compilers use to monitor the English language, but linguists are prepared to consider a word for publication in future dictionaries if there is evidence that it is in common use.

I always enjoy these lists of obscure words, even if I doubt any of them will wind up in Collins. Thanks for the link, Paul!
Addendum. BBC News has a different take on the same survey, concluding: “However the word ‘boyo’, meaning friend, is out of fashion. It was submitted by one single person in all of Wales.”


Oh, and there’s a related editorial with an impressively sensible conclusion:

Language evolves regardless of the prescriptions of lexicographers and even The Times. The dialect for cowshed (byre, shippen…) may be fading away with mechanised mass dairies. But we are creating new occupational jargons, for curry, for computers, for games. For language is the (only) exact democracy. It is formed by all its users. Words are lost only when they cease to be used. To try to revive dead men’s words is work for resurrection men.

Comments

  1. George Bernard Shawm says:

    No longer an obsolete wind insturment!

  2. Don’t think I don’t know that’s you, Emms.

  3. Don’t think I don’t know that’s you, Emms.

  4. And talking of obscure words in The Times, there are two new videos of Jamessal & Codfish’s cat Muntz and dog Champ available here.

  5. Doug Sundseth says:

    “To try to revive dead men’s words is work for resurrection men.”
    This is as true for dying and dead languages as it is for dying or dead words or phrases. FWIW, I have an opinion how true that really is*, but the logic is the same.
    * Unfortunately, this margin is too small to contain the opinion. 8-)

  6. That is one feisty cat and a hyper tolerant dog …

  7. I apologise for messing up the comments so early on.
    I don’t understand his resurrection men metaphor.

  8. That is one feisty cat and a hyper tolerant dog …
    You’d be surprised how often it’s Champ who instigates the fighting. He’s really taken to surrogacy.

  9. I apologise for messing up the comments so early on.
    Don’t be silly: Muntz justly trumps other topics, and certainly wambly words.

  10. rootlesscosmo says:

    The mention of Lancashire vocabulary prompts me to recommend a favorite movie we just revisited, David Lean’s “Hobson’s Choice,” set in a medium-sized town about 1890. A wonderful picture and a rich mine of local usage and pronunciation.

Speak Your Mind

*