Followers of Susie Dent on Twitter will be only too aware she’s second to none at finding the right word for the occasion: and here are ten more for our current times.
‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’. Never have Dylan Thomas’s words seemed more important. Most of us have lurched from one emotion to the other in recent days as we struggle to contemplate the unthinkable. But how do we articulate everything we feel, when so much of our usual vocabulary seems starkly inadequate?
I offer here a few emotional words that were once consigned to the forgotten pages of the dictionary, but which seem quietly expressive for the now.
Even as we rage against the darkness, most of us have felt powerless at its descent. To be ‘benighted’, in the 16th century, was to be overtaken by sorrow. But there is some comfort in knowing that the dictionary also offers ‘bedayed’, ‘returned to the light’.
A wistful and elegiac word, ‘desiderate’ inexplicably disappeared centuries ago. It means to feel an intense desire or longing for something we once possessed, but that is now lost.
Whilst its sounds suggest blustering bloviation and empty words, the 19th-century ‘blutterbunged’ actually means to be utterly confounded and shocked.
Helplessness and despair can leave one totally ‘dumfungled’ – used up and exhausted. Little wonder then that we are also left ‘forwallowed’ – bone weary from tossing and turning all night.
With forwallowing comes iarmhaireacht, an Irish word to for the eerie and profound loneliness felt at dawn.
Much of the vocabulary left by the Vikings was not for the faint-hearted. ‘Ugging’ is part of their legacy, for to ‘ug’ is to regard something or somebody with dread and revulsion – the word ‘ugly’ was once far stronger than it is today. Something or somebody ‘ugsome’ is therefore utterly repugnant.
This word from 19th-century Scots conveys the sheer impossibility of concentrating. To fauchle is to work listlessly, because your heart and mind just aren’t in the game.
Let’s never forget the positives (The top ten ways to say something nice). ‘Firgun’ is a relatively recent term from Hebrew that expresses unselfish pride and admiration in someone else’s deeds.
Thinkache, from the 19th century, covers many bases. It can describe both a painful thought, an instance of mental suffering, and the overwhelming weariness that comes from too much thinking.
All in all, it takes another Scots word to articulate how many of us surely feel at the moment. To be ‘hingum-tringum’, quite simply, is to be barely hanging together. Now seems the time to rescue it from dictionary oblivion.