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If Merriam-Webster Conducted Search and Rescue

• January 11, 2013 • 5:12 PM

A lot of folks were delighted this election season (words one rarely expects to see) when Joe Biden used the word “malarkey” to describe some reputedly bogus assertion by his opponent at the vice presidential debate. Ignoring the politics of the matter (or just how Irish this allegedly Irish word is), a lot of the commentariat just liked to see the old word unfurled again.

That impulse also moves the self-described Word Warriors at Michigan’s Wayne State University, who for the last five years have developed a list of archaic words that they’d like to see revived. Their latest list for C. Montgomery Burns wannabes has just been released.

According to Jerry Herron, dean of the school’s Irvin D. Reid Honors College and a member of the  editorial board behind the Word Warriors website, “The English language has more words in its lexicon than any other. By making use of the repertoire available to us, we expand our ability to communicate clearly and help make our world a more interesting place. Bringing these words back into everyday conversation is just another way of broadening our horizons.”

(Frankly, I think those high-falutin’ sentiments contain just a tad–but not a bunch–of malarkey. When word people play with verbiage, thoughts that it might make the world a better place definitely take a back seat to literate exuberance for its own nerdy sake. For today, let’s leave the noble sentiments to those with horizons larger than a few syllables.)

Past dictionary refugees given shelter by Wayne State have included “transmogrify,” “hornswoggle,” and “bloviate,” the last a concept I’m obviously acquainted with. So to curb that impulse, I’ll head to this year’s top 10:

Buncombe – Rubbish; nonsense; empty or misleading talk. [It might be more familiar as “bunkum.”]

Cerulean – The blue of the sky.

Chelonian ­– Like a turtle (and who doesn’t like turtles?).

Dragoon – To compel by coercion; to force someone to do something they’d rather not.

Fantods – Extreme anxiety, distress, nervousness or irritability.

Mawkish – Excessively sentimental; sappy; hopelessly trite.

Natter – To talk aimlessly, often at great length; rarely, it means simply to converse.

Persiflage – Banter; frivolous talk.

Troglodyte – Literally, a cave-dweller. More frequently a backward, mentally sluggish person.

Winkle – To pry out or extract something; from the process of removing the snail from an edible periwinkle.

Not feeling any of these? Head to their site and make your suggestion for 2014’s list.

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

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