. [This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
The English language has been evolving for centuries. Each year, new words are added while obsolete words fall from common use.
For example, the Oxford English Dictionary, the ultimate arbiter in words with its 20 printed volumes and 21,739 pages, declared at the end of 2020 that adulting — “to become, be, or behave as an adult; (now) esp. to carry out the mundane or everyday tasks that are a necessary part of adult life” — is now officially part of the everyday lexicon.
On the other hand, while it’s still in the OED, when was the last time you used brabble in a sentence? (Brabble: To bicker loudly about trifles or nothing at all.)
As a writer, I love words and the power they have. I’m always looking for ways to expand my vocabulary. For example, I recently came across cockalorum, which describes a person who has an overly high opinion of himself. Then there’s groak, which is to stare silently at someone who is eating, hoping that they will offer you some. If you stare long enough, you might get a tittynope (a small quantity of something left over.) Type that last one out in Microsoft Word, and you’ll get a very angry red line.
Other languages are far more expansive than English. German, for example, has over 5.3 million words, thanks to its ability to just add syllable after syllable to root words. My favourite new German word is Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz, which describes the anxiety and fretting brought on by Donald Trump. And the next time you try to drown out your feelings by eating, note that you’re bound to see kummerspeck (literally “grief bacon”), which is the weight you will inevitably gain.
At the risk of being a pochemuchka (Russian for a person who asks too many questions), English can suffer from esculhambação (Brazilian Portuguese describing a mess because of organizational incompetence) when it comes to words, we need for a couple of musical situations.