ORIGINALLY POSTED 12/2/2014
As an author, you need to spend a good deal of time with words. Of course this is beyond an obvious statement, but we often look past the obvious in our lives to the detriment of fundamental mastery. Does a master woodworker not need to obsess over wood? Should the master arborist not have a devoted attention for even the simplest and most common of trees? Should I, if in fact I care about my craft, not look at a word as benign as ‘hello’ and wonder where it came from and why we use it? (According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hello is an alteration of hallo, which came from the Old High German word halâ, used especially in hailing a ferryman).
I think it is important for someone in my field to seek this information and have a curiosity about these things. Often, I’ve come across humorous and interesting words. What I wanted to share in this blogpost were a few examples of words and phrases that have left the modern lexicon for one reason or another, and I would argue that they should be brought back. For what reason, you ask? For fun, for perspective, or for no reason other than my own strange curiosity. You are welcome to whichever reason you prefer.
“Tell it to Sweeney!”
Meaning – what you say when you believe something to be untrue, meaning, tell it to someone who is dumb enough to believe it.
Usage – “You say a good book can’t have talking bears? Pfft, tell it to Sweeney!”
Etymology – “Sweeney” referenced the myriad of monikers used in England around the 1800s to describe the stereotypical Irishman.
Meaning – distant, reserved, aloof
Usage – “Isn’t it great how offish Dylan Lee Peters is? I wish I could be that offish!”
Etymology – comes directly from standoffish
Meaning – Drunk
Usage – “Poor Dylan Lee Peters has gone and got himself fuzzled again. Though, it does improve his writing.”
Etymology – derivative of the French word fusel, which means bad liquor
Meaning – A writer of books; an author
Usage – “Dylan Lee Peters is the best bookwright ever. Anyone who says different can tell it to Sweeney!”
Etymology – from book + wright. The word wright deriving from Old English and meaning ‘related to work.’
Meaning – To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them
Usage – “Dylan Lee Peters is going to groak you if you eat that taco in front of him. He will groak you like a dog.”
Etymology – I couldn’t find the origin of this word, but had to include it. If you know the origin, please post it in the comments.