Yesterday, I posted about all these wonderful words that various languages use around the world. But what about all those words that English used to have, but somehow were forgotten, disappearing from memory? Isn’t it awful that we no longer have a word for intestinal and cranial distress, arising from intemperance and debauchery – aka Crapulence?
- CRAPULENCE: This word, from the Latin root crapula, arose in the 18th century. According to Kacirk, it denoted “intestinal and cranial distress … arising from intemperance and debauchery.” Put another way: If you get drunk, expect crapulence. And a Grog-Blossom.
- GROG-BLOSSOM: A word from the 18th century for the dilation of blood vessels—caused by long-term overconsumption of the drink – in an alcoholic’s nose.
- GROANING-CHEESE: Back in the day, husbands didn’t just hold their wives’ hands during childbirth—they gave them the medieval version of an epidural: Cheese. Groaning-cheese was said to soothe a lady in labor, and so husbands paired it with groaning-cake, groaning-drink and a groaning-cigar at the end of it all. Groan…
- ASTROLOGAMAGE: Astrologer-Mages were the medieval era’s wise men who made predictions based on what was happening in the sky. When did Mage part, leaving the humble Astrologer to fly solo? Anyway, I expect fantasy writers to arrange a comeback.
- EYE-SERVANT: A term describing a servant who did his duty only lazily except when within sight of his master, “a form of insincerity known as ‘eye-service,'” Kacirk notes. Replace servant with employee and master with boss, and you could probably know a few people to whom this term would apply. How more modern can you get?
- FLITTERWOCHEN: This Old English expression (probably borrowed from German) meant “fleeting weeks,” and refers to what we today call a honeymoon. I believe that everyone would agree with me, that Flitterwochen is a much better word.
- FRIBBLER: Though this term comes from the 18th century, chances are you know a fribbler. He says he’s really into a lady, but just won’t commit. The behavior of a fribbler was called fribbledom, by the way. Romance authors, take heed!
- MUMPSIMUS: This Middle English word originally meant “an incorrigible, dogmatic old pedant,” but eventually came to refer to an incorrect opinion that someone clung to. According to Kacirk, the word originated with an illiterate 15th century clergyman, who incorrectly copied the Latin word sumpsimus and read it in mass.
- NIGHT-HAG: If people living from medieval times up until the 19th century had a bad dream, they could blame it on a night-hag. This female demon’s M.O. was to kidnap people at night on horseback, and give them nightmares by “producing a feeling of suffocation,” according to Kacirk. There were a number of strategies for keeping a night-hag at bay, including: placing bread blessed at the local parish under a child’s pillow; arranging shoes under the bed with the toes pointing out; and hanging flint chips—aka hag-stones—around the bedposts. Other treatments would probably lead to Grog-Blossom.
- NIMGIMMER: A 17th century term for a surgeon who specialized in curing pox or the clap. Nimgimmer, MD, then.
- NUMBLES: This Anglo-Saxon word, taken from Old French, refers to animal intestines and internal organs, which were eaten by peasants in a dish called garbage pye. Ideal for dystopian authors, wouldn’t you say?
- PETTY-FOGGER: From the the 16th to 19th centuries, people would have called lawyers like Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman petty-foggers. “For a fee, these attorneys were willing to quibble over insignificant legal points … or use unethical practices in order to win a case,” Kacirk writes. It’s a good thing we’ve outgrown such awful practices.
- PIGGESNYE: Chaucer coined this term (which, according to Kacirk, comes from the phrase “pig’s eye”) for a sweetheart. Romance authors: have your hero use it next Valentine’s Day and see what happens.
- RATTONER: Nobody wants to say that the exterminator is coming over. Use this 14th century term—taken from the Old French word raton and the Medieval Latin word ratonis, which both refer to rats, according to Kacirk—instead. I wonder if the movie Terminator would benefit from a rename.
So, here you have it, folks! Don’t forget to pay a visit to Jeff Kacirk and his Forgotten English for more fascinating and inspirational words for your writing! 🙂