How is it that long-dead fashion trends manage to come back in style but old-fashioned words rarely do? Why wouldn’t a population want to revive words like humgruffin, flapdoodle, or ramfeezled? Why merely be content with saying a coworker “sucks up” to upper management when we could say he honeyfuggles them? Why call Janet from accounting a gossip when you could call her a quidnunc? Why hashtag the Sunday Scaries when you could be tweeting about your #Sonntagsleerung, a German word from the early 20th century that apparently means the exact same thing?
All of these words are lovingly brought back from the linguistic dead in Joe Gillard’s The Little Book of Lost Words: Collywobbles, Snollygosters, and 86 Other Surprisingly Useful Terms Worth Resurrecting. Each word is paired with a definition, a witty sample sentence, and an illustrative historical painting.
“There are very few treasures that we can dig out of the ground, dust off, and put into use as if they were brand-new,” writes Gillard in the introduction. “Words, of course, are the exception. The purpose of this book is to provide you with your very own collection of treasures, ready to be resurrected and introduced into conversation with a delighted audience.”