Friday, August 06, 2010

Oxford's Secret Word Vault

Did you know there are millions of rejected words waiting for the chance to join the English language? According to this article in Time, the Oxford University Press has a vault with "unwords" written on cards and filed away. Some of these words include "dringle" (The watermark left on wood caused by a glass of liquid) and "oninate" (To overwhelm with post-dining breath--I presume this must be onion-breath). Although they were once judged "unsuitable" for the Oxford English Dictionary, there's still a possibility that they could be accepted into future editions of the OED, so they're kept around. It reminds me a bit of Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, which, if I remember it correctly, contained every book ever written--unpublished, published, good, or bad. As a writer, I think it would be really cool to look at some of those unwords -- and the whole concept sounds like a story idea to me. What do you think? Do we need more words like dringle and oninate, to name things we all come across yet seldom discuss? What unwords would you nominate to the Secret Word Vault?


Ted Cross said...

No, I think that people themselves as a society evolve the language. Words that just don't work end up dying away, as they should.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I like writing spec fic mostly because we can make up words. I said electrinical the other day and then declared that, as I have a BA in English, I'm allowed one made up word a day. Electrinical is any matter or decision dealt with by a council of electricians. Voltage is an electrinical matter.

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