There’s a word I came across recently: blatteroon. The instant I heard it I knew it was going to be one of my favourite endangered words. This one ticks all the right boxes; sounding great, insulting (without being crude), memorable and surprisingly easy to spell. Meaning ‘a senseless babbler or boaster,’ blatteroon has all but fallen from usage. We continue to use ‘blathering’ as in ‘talking a load of tosh’ but blatteroon is hanging on by the skin of its chattering teeth. As I haven’t noticed any corresponding reduction in blatteroons themselves, I am asking myself why such a useful word should become endangered?
Whilst considering the plight of blatteroon, I thought of our laziness when it comes to choosing words and how this places under threat many other useful (and often more charismatic) words. These are words that might not appear on the endangered lists of today but might well find a place there in the near future. Is our determination to communicate using the shortest words available (whether it be by text or email or in even in speech) putting at risk some really excellent terms and phrases? By constantly favouring ‘twits’, over ‘nincompoops’ or ‘fools’ over ‘ignoramuses’ – do we risk making today’s nincompoops and ignoramuses tomorrow’s blatteroons?
Although I am a lover of words, I am also a realist and I quite understand that some people are going to need attractive incentives to start bringing words back to life. So, to get the endangered words campaign off to a flying start, I’m introducing two dazzling awards: Carnaby’s Off-Kilter Prize for Eccentricity and The Brabbler’s Sizzling Squib for Endangered Words, for those kind souls out there who are already championing the cause of obscure or antiquated words.
Anyone who has ever seen a sizzling squib will understand why I can’t send real prizes out, so these prestigious awards are of the treasured but virtual kind. (or is it virtual, but treasured kind?)
Carnaby’s Off-Kilter Prize goes to Brazilian super mother Erotides Brandão, who named each of her 15 children ‘Walter’ after her husband (boys and girls). http://www.hispanicallyspeakingnews.com/latino-daily-news/details/brazilian-woman-names-her-15-children-walter/24510/
While The Brabbler’s Sizzling Squib for Endangered Words goes to journalist and writer Will Self for his stunning use of the word sesquipedalian. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17777556