From albedo to zugunruhe

There was one of the most enjoyable articles I have read in a long time in yesterday’s Review section of the Guardian.

It was one man’s (James Meek) quest to look up and learn every obscure word that he encountered over the past few years.

Meek mentioned a few words that I have come across myself, such as ‘litotes’ and ‘arête’, which briefly made me feel good, but most of them were as much a mystery to me as they were Meek.

The title of the article includes two that surely show how diverse and bottomless the English language is.

One point that the writer made, and one I wholly concur with, is that these words should not be lost and need to be remembered and used elsewhere.

I’ve long been of the view that we should use ‘different’ words and not the same, short, boring words to describe things. ‘Hirsute’ has long been one of my favourite words and is much more evocative and enjoyable than hairy.

Equally, I think more people should talk about the ‘antebellum’ period of history, rather than pre-war.

It’s not being posh, arrogant or a snob, simply wanting to keep words alive and not let them die out. Long live the English language!

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