Dead words ?

Phil: According to the Collins Dictionary experts, words such as aerodrome and charabanc are now extinct. They have monitored many sources and decided that no one uses them any more and so will be omitting them from all but the largest dictionaries in the future. A shocking state of affairs that nearly cause me to choke on the delicious rainbow cookie recently purchased from Moor…ish at Birmingham Moor Street Station.

I quite like the term “aerodrome” and would still employ it to refer to an airfield used exclusively by private planes. If you go on holiday by flying out from there and don’t get to hold the controls, you are leaving from an airport, otherwise it’s an aerodrome. Simple really and I can’t believe I’m the only one still saying this.

Charabanc is a bit different. Open top coaches are a bit of a rarity these days and the word itself seems to imply that the transport won’t be awfully reliable. In fact if you are heading out on a “charabanc trip”, in my mind you’ll probably spend some time pushing the thing up a hill. However, out of sheer bloody mindedness, I will be referring to all coaches as charabancs in the future, just so that such an interesting sounding word gets a bit of a dust off every so often.

All this stuff about words not being used and becoming extinct is a bit of a worry. At the same time as we lose these two, we gain “woot” and “lappy”. What gives ? As a writer, and one who still likes to put the apostrophe before the word ‘phone, I think we are being short-changed. English is a continually evolving language it’s true, but I wonder if it’s gradually descending into little more than a series of grunts. “Lappy” for instance isn’t a word. A nickname or contraction maybe but a word ?

Yes we are in the era of teh interweb but most of this is driven by idiots who don’t understand that even in an e-mail (note the e- as this is a contraction of electronic mail so it needs a hyphen. Yes it does.) you are supposed to use capital letters and full stops. At least most of them have stopped writing entirely in caps while saying it “saves time” wasted using the shift key. People going around to their house and punching them in the face sorted all that out. The other driver is the mainstream media and here there is a bigger problem – the BBC has given up reporting and its journalists just sit in the office reading Twitter. The character limit obviously imposes constraints on the writer so they will abbreviate. This, a lazy journalist will insert in their story with nothing more than copy’n’paste adding only “It says on Twitter” as though that means it must be true.

The only silver lining in all this is that it doesn’t actually matter what Collins or Oxford or any other dictionary publisher say. The same modern world that thinks “schmick” is somehow a word, doesn’t bother buying the things any more. They could be knocking out pure Dr Johnson as the 3 copies sold each year will sit on the shelf as decoration. The result of us have computers and will use aerodrome if we want to .

1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

One response to “Dead words ?

  1. Andy in Germany

    My personal bugbear isn’t the presence or absence of a particular word, it’s the use of exclamation marks. I can’t help feeling that if you need one at the end of a joke, it isn’t funny. Do we saw “Exclamation mark” at the end of a joke when we tell one?
    I can see the point in a writen dialogue, but still.
    The same atitude has brought us WRITING ON CAPS TO MAKE A POINT. If you have to write in caps, you’ve written it wrong.
    And don’t even get me started on ‘smilies’…

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