So there I was, 9:30 in the morning, indulging in my guilty pleasures — a second cup of coffee and my second crossword puzzle. As I filled in 13 Across — a four-letter word expressing sorrow — the proverbial light bulb flashed. Now there’s a fine word, I thought. Why does no-one say ‘alas’ any more?
I know that language isn’t static, and words seem to have an inherent expiration date. They can be cool for a while, then drop out of favor, and new ones take their place. That’s precisely the reason that each year I attempt to enlighten my generation with my “English as a Second Language” pop quiz. If there’s to be any hope at all for intergenerational communication, we must keep up with the neologisms invented by the Ys and the Zs.
But getting back to my puzzle, and the light bulb, there are many lovely words such as hie, or thither, that have been saved from the vocabulary graveyard by the sheer fortune of becoming a response to a crossword clue!
I’m not suggesting to reach way back, like, let’s say, biblical pronouns or all those “begats.” But methinks, perhaps, it’s not too far reaching to dip into another century or two for some good old-fashioned linguistic flavor. Help me make “alas” the new “Oy vey.”
So to kick off my campaign, I offer a brief list of words that I believe deserve a second chance.
EEK! A wonderful and succinct expression of alarm, fear or surprise that’s too much fun to be confined to cartoons or comic strips. Example: EEK, it’s time for my colonoscopy again!
SCORE. No, not the result of a sports competition, but another word for “twenty,” derived from counting sheep and making a mark when the number was reached. Probably not in use since Abraham Lincoln, I would like it reintroduced starting immediately. Example: When my next big birthday comes due, I shall be Four Score.
EVENTIDE. A melodic word that means “end of the day.” Example: It’s eventide somewhere; let’s go have a drink!
EGAD. Don’t you just love “egad?” Go ahead. Say it aloud. It’s an exclamation of surprise or anger. So expressive. Example: Egad! It’s 7 am and I’ve run out of coffee!
WAN. This sweet little word is way more than just Obi Kenobi’s middle name or an ancient Chinese dynasty. It has an identity all its own. It’s a synonym for “pale,” or “ashen.” Example: In the morning, after a night of drinking, Henry was looking more than a little wan.
TRUMPERY. Things that look good but are basically worthless. (I said THINGS, not PEOPLE!) Example: I know for a fact that she shops at the flea market, so her designer handbag collection is mere trumpery.
GADZOOKS. Another word you will love to say. Just try it. And worth a lot of Scrabble points. It is an exclamation of surprise or indignation. Example: Gadzooks! My scale says I’ve gained the Quarantine 15!
ZOUNDS. An alternative to Gadzooks! Make up your own example.
PIFFLE. Say it fast four times. Feels good, doesn’t it? It means trivial nonsense. Example: Last night on Zoom my friends and I played Piffle Pursuit and I won!
HUMBUG. Made popular by Scrooge, this little-used word means false or deceptive. Example: The fashion model’s lush eyelashes were definitely humbug.
This is by no means a complete list. It’s meant to kick-start a trend. And please, feel free to add some old words of your own.
And just so I know you are truly with me in this endeavor, next time you send me a text, be sure to include at least one flapdoodle!