Words are like local shops – it’s a case of use them or lose them. I was shocked to hear that ‘charabanc’ and ‘aerodrome’ have been expunged from the Oxford English Dictionary. But how can that be, when there is a sign for Haverfordwest Aerodrome just down the road from here? And last summer Marc and I went with a couple of friends on what can only be called a charabanc, a (hilarious) local coach trip to the Brecon canal.
But clearly we didn’t use charabanc or aerodrome enough so both those have gone and the problem is that once they have gone, however much we suddenly realise we loved them, we can’t easily get them back.
The people behind the ‘shop local’ organisation are trying to promote local shops and businesses, maybe we should have a similar campaign for words. Some kind of system of encouraging people to use our favourites in order to keep them alive. Louis de Bernières suggests that it’s a good idea to scour the dictionary and to put a couple of pretty obscure words into the first few pages of a novel as it sets a good tone. (I have just scoured his book Birds Without Wings, a wonderful engrossing read, and quickly found ‘kaval’, ‘mendicant’ and ‘Circassian’!) But finding underused words in books and magazines from time to time isn’t enough, we have to use them day to day. I hardly dare say it, but we need to spread the word!
Some years ago I went through a period of having to go to some pretty dull cocktail parties, and to make it less of an ordeal my partner and I selected a couple of words before going in that we would try to bring casually into the conversation. We gave each other points for how successful we were. I scored particularly well I seem to remember for an inspired combined use of ‘intransigent’ and ‘giraffe’.
In memory of that success I have decided to start my own ‘use them or lose them’ campaign by introducing some of my favourites into my blog, my tweets and possibly even my day to day chit chat. I am starting with ‘equanimity’ and ‘detritus’- two of my favourite underachievers. So, unless you are able to accept the demise of your words/local village shops with equanimity, I suggest you start using them, otherwise they will become part of the inevitable detritus of globalisation!