in which we haul old words out of the crypt…
whilst i take a necessary romp through the copy editing room––chasing errant commas, untangling knotted sentences from my book in the making––i bring you a lexicographic exercise all your own, a few old words to haul from the crypts of time….
traipsing through the big apple for the last deliriously heavenly string of days, i found myself in the tenement museum on the lower east side, just a hop and a skip from 53 suffolk street, the very tenement where my children’s great grandfather settled in and built a life—running a bakery and fathering four children of his own, the baby of whom was my father-in-law who grew up to be a newspaper editor and publisher on the jersey shore and the father of my beloved. isidore kaminski, once a wheelmaker in the russian czar’s army, found his way to delancey and suffolk streets upon arrival to these shores via the SS Uranium, direct from the port of rotterdam, where he was leaving behind the austro-polish-russian city of ostrołęka—and a young wife he’d soon beckon to america.
while awaiting our illustrious tour guide who would provide a peek inside grandpa izzie’s early days, and the squalid life crammed inside three shotgun rooms measuring all of barely 300 square feet, we idled in the decidedly excellent gift shop. among the many many tchotchkes that beguilingly glimmered to catch my eye, the one i grabbed was none other than the little book of lost words: collywobbles, snollygosters, and 86 other surprisingly useful terms worth resurrecting, by a fellow named joe gillard, the creator of “history hustle,” an online history publication for the digital age.
it is so packed with deliciousness (of a literary ilk) it nearly made me drool (in a purely literary way). and so whilst i deep dive into the copy edits that just landed on my desk, for this latest book of mine in the making, i thought i’d let you frolic in a wordly romp all your own.
herewith a short list of words we must work to resurrect, to bring back into daily conversation at dinner tables, water coolers, and playlots all across the land. they run from A (absquatulate: to run off with someone in a hurry; to abscond) to W (wamblecropt: severe digestive discomfort). and i hereby pledge to bring you the best of the bumper crop, the ones sure to whirl off your lips or are so dreamily defined as to demand daily exercise.
so, settle in, grab your mugs, and repeat after me:
akrasia: (ancient greek) the act of knowing you shouldn’t be doing something, but doing it anyway. deliberately acting against good judgment.
amphigory: (19th-century english) a piece of writing that appears to have meaning but is really just foolish nonsense. (i know nothing about amphigory. ahem.)
betweenity: (18th-century english) being in the middle, or between things.
collywobbles: (19th-century english) stomach pain or sickness from nervous anxiety. (can’t imagine.)
flapdoodle: (again, 19th-century english) foolish or blatantly false ideas or words. (we seem to be living through an outbreak.)
honeyfuggle: (19th-century english. dialect) to compliment or flatter someone to get something you want. (who would do such a thing?!)
mayhap: (16th-century english) perhaps, possibly.
ninnyhammer: (16th-century english) a fool.
prickmedainty: (16th-century english. dialect) an overly nice person.
quafftide: (16th-century english) the time for drinking alcohol. (i admit to being a fool for Q words. i find them poetic to no end, nearly every time…)
quanked: (19th-century english) exhausted or fatigued from hard work.
sloom: (19th-century scottish) a light, gentle sleep.
snollygoster: (19th-century english. american slang) a dishonest, corrupt, and unprincipled person. esp. a politician. (again, we’re overpopulated here.)
somewhile: (12th-century english) at some other time, sometimes. (this might be the word i’ll work hardest to revive. although betweenity might be my runner-up.)
sonntagsleerung: (early 20th-century german, medical terminology) the depression one feels on sunday before the week begins. (i remember it well from days gone by.)
uhtceare: oot-kee-ar-uh (10th-century old english) lying awake in bed feeling anxious. (can’t imagine.)
i leave you now, mayhaps, to breathe life into these dusty, musty old bits of archaica. call me a ninnyhammer, but i’ve a hunch we can make this happen….or else we’ll all get quanked from trying….
any favorite old words you’d nominate to bring back to the daily lexicon? was there a word or words you always heard growing up, one whose very utterance to this day sweeps you back in time to the particular place or someone from whose lips it fell?
and, yes, yes, i do note that among the pages i’ve made into pictures i seem to have plucked a preponderance of words expressing sheer exhaustion. coincidence not missed on me….
Keep breathing, sloooowly now….
I was going to say “gobsmacked” as a favorite (“overwhelmed with wonder, surprise, or shock : ASTOUNDED” says Merriam-Webster), but it’s 20th Century!
i love that word too.
the bird song before dawn was soooooooo soothing this morning it got me out of bed and started the day with what felt like the holiest of balms…..
I love hearing about your “book-find” bursting with words whose sounds are so entertaining! But I love more your pilgrimage to your family’s sacred ground, rich with memories and gratitude for the courage and tenacity of B’s ancestors. May you be blessed with the same as you continue with the birth of your book.
thank you, thank you, dear P!!!
Quanked! My new favorite word.
!!!!!! that makes me infinitely happy!
Though I am quanked and need sloom from dealing with a snollygoster, I would uhtceare with collywobbles so somewhile then. Now, it is quafftide and though akrasia tells me otherwise, I shall be a ninnyhammer and mayhap, honeyfuggle some bartender for a free drink!
BING BING BING!!!!!!! get this woman a blue ribbon, and a parade. she just strung together a whole crypt of archaica, and now let us pour her those doundrins! (autocorrect is going nuts here, not able to reach back into the 17th century!
FYI, the Tenement Museum is a must for folks with a NYC immigrant experience. How our ancestors went from tiny rural Polish towns to the lower east side is beyond me! And our spouses are probably related since his ancestral town is nearby.
does that make you and me cousins?????
I can only hope! at least our husbands probably have some shared DNA:)
Oooh, this reminds me of The Abecedarian Book, which I received for Christmas 1964. (Yes, I still have it.) The long words were a treat for the tongue and the typography and artwork a feast for the eyes (possibly foreshadowing the elaborate rock posters that were just a few years away.) From this slender book I gained “onomatopoeia” and many other polysyllables, cementing my reputation as a word geek in 8th grade.
now that’s a fine reputation to have cemented! by 8th grade, no less!! here’s to geeks. and abecedarians (another word i just love….)
I LOVE these words. If I hadn’t just had quafftide, I’d try to say something interesting, but I’ll save that for somewhile! I had a bit of akrasia about my afternoon quaff, but it did help my collywobbles. 🙂
HA!! that’s pretty hilarious, madame quafftide!!!
This is wonderful!
holy heck!!!!!!! GL, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO great to find you here. sending big big hug across the cyberwaves. xoxoxoxoxo
What a fun read this week, Barbie! Ironically, my great granddad left Austria to build a new life here as a baker, though he travelled a bit further east and settled in Chicago. Believe it or not, “The Issel Building, Est. 1908” sits on the corner of Clark and Wilson. How lucky you were to be able to tour Isidore’s domain! And the book that you found is precious. I thought that I had created a unique word of my own, but I think you’ve actually used it once or twice. It’s “absotively”, a cross between absolutely and positively, used when I’m trying to be quite emphatic-ha! I suppose that I could use the word “posilutely” in the same manner, but it just doesn’t pack the same punch, does it?! Thanks again for putting a smile on my face-it’s sure to last the week!
AHHHHH! this is absotively marvelous! and i love that there is an Issel Building, and I feel like I’ve seen it. And wondered if it was yours…..