Words That Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Die
From the Department of Scary Statistics, we get the report that the average 15 to 24 year old now spends an average of eight minutes a day reading. Yes, reading. Not only that, one third of US teenagers send over 100 text messages a day and people aged 8 to 18 now spend 7.5 hours per day interacting with an electronic device such as a cell phone, computer, iPod or TV. And because they multitask they actually are getting something like 11 hours of media “exposure” in those 7.5 hours.
A lot of people think that this is wonderful and inevitable and that people like me, who wonder if it’s really all that wonderful, are reactionary Luddites who should get with the program.
Maybe, but recently I’ve found that I’m having increasing difficulty communicating with technophiles. Partly that’s because they never look up from their cell phones, but also it’s because of an increasing divergence in world view and communication techniques. I’m not just talking about the fact that they don’t have a historical or literary frame of reference or think that Thor is really just a comic book character.
I’m talking about words which are rapidly falling into disuse. Every year someone publishes an article about new words that have come into the lexicon. Words like tweet, and unfriend. But no one talks about the very rich words that are being forgotten as communication increases exponentially in volume while decreasing equally exponentially in content.
With that in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of words that should not be allowed to die. Of course there are a lot more words on the endangered list, but this is a sampler. Because some of them may already be obscure, I’ve given the definition. And for the benefit of the many Gen Y people who regularly read this blog, I’ve included an example of how the word can be used in daily conversation. Here goes:
Behoove—v. Although some people may think this means getting a new pair of Boho boots, it actually means necessary, proper or advantageous. Is it applicable today? You betcha: “Amber, I saw the pics from your party out on Facebook. It might behoove you to take them down before you apply for a job.”
Desuetude—n. Discontinuance from use. A description of the words we are talking about, and this word should be kept alive because technological change demands its use, as in: “Ever since I got my iPad, my iPod and phone have so fallen into desuetude.”
Euthenics—n. A science that deals with development of human well-being by improvement of living conditions. I admit, there is a bit of snob appeal to this word because a lot of people won’t know if you are talking about ‘eugenics’ or ‘euthanasia’ and think that it’s time for a moral argument. But no one in their right mind would be against ‘euthenics.’ As in, “I’m so into euthenics. I mean, imagine if everyone had an iPad.”
Hebetate—v. To make dull or obtuse. “OMG this teacher is so boring he actually hebetates sex education!”
Ineluctable—adj. Not to be avoided, changed or resisted; inevitable. “Josh and I are so going to the Prom together. It’s like totally ineluctable.”
Jejune—adj. Lacking interest or significance, lacking maturity. “OMG, if her Tweets get any more jejune I’ll have to stop following Paris Hilton.”
Mountebank—n. A person who sells quack medicines from a platform; a boastful, unscrupulous pretender. You may have noticed that in the blogosphere you can’t always tell the mountebanks from the real experts. Your friend may say, “Some mountebank sold me this fake Gucci bag on eBay.”
Nugatory—adj. Of little or no consequence, trifling, inconsequential, having no force. “My mother said she would ground me if I go to the concert next week. And I’m like, ‘Mom, that’s totally nugatory.’”
Pusillanimous—adj. Lacking courage and resolution, marked by contemptible timidity. As in “Josh broke up with me by sending a text. I mean, how pusillanimous can you get?”
Perspicacity—n. Acute mental vision or discernment. “Well, Josh finally got the perspicacity to dump her.”
Quotidian—n. Occurring every day; routine. Another word whose appeal comes in part from it not sounding anything like what it means. As in “Downloading iPhone Apps from Apple’s Apps store has gotten to be so quotidian.”
Recondite—adj. Hidden from sight; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge. “Have you seen Grand Theft Auto IV? Some of the new features are totally recondite, man.”
Please join me in using these words and saving them from extinction. Now that you know what they mean, prevent verbal desuetude by, in your quotidian conversations, demonstrating your perspicacity by using these words. It is not ineluctable that you will hebetate your conversation and the risk of being branded a mountebank is nugatory. Only jejune and pusillanimous people won’t appreciate your recondite efforts at euthenics! It behooves them to get a dictionary!