Wayne State University Brings Back Forgotten Words

Michigan has a way with words. 

For the last 19 years, I have written about Lake State Superior University's List of Words Banished for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness. Last week, I wrote about how LSSU wants to banish ten problem words like "cringe-worthy" and "rizz."

And if that's the only language-related news coming out of Michigan, you'd be justified in thinking that Michigan is a linguistic poopy-pants.

Except, not all of Michigan is a crotchety old linguist shouting at clouds. While LSSU (go Lakers) wants to banish useless words, Wayne State University (go Warriors) wants to reintroduce ten old words back into the English language.

It turns out that for the last 15 years, the Wayne State Word Warriors have been publishing a list of "eminently useful" words they want to reintroduce into everyday conversation. Color me surprised, because I never knew that list even existed until this afternoon when I was scrambling for a column topic.

Unfortunately, Wayne State's title doesn't have a catchy name like LSSU. They just call it a list of long-forgotten words.

As a marketing professional, I can tell you that they're missing out on a golden opportunity. They could call it the List of Words to Resurrect After Disuse, Underuse, or General Desuetude. But no, their list of words just sort of gets dolloped out every year without much fanfare while LSSU's name trips and susurrates off the tongue.

The list is compiled by suggestions from website administrators as well as members of the public, and the top ten terms are published several days after LSSU's cloud-shouting. I even contributed an entry to next year's list: "sporange."

This is a real word and is the only word that rhymes with "orange." (There is also a mountain in Wales called "Blorenge.")

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "sporange" as, "To continue reading, please purchase a subscription."

Actually, it's an old botanical word for the sporangium, the part of a plant that produces spores. We'll see if my submission makes the cut for next year.

This year, the Word Warriors want to resurrect the long-forgotten word "curglaff," which is the shock you feel when you first plunge into cold water.

This also explains why the list is only ten words long: things shrink in cold water.

They also want to bring back "dollop," which refers to a shapeless mass or a blob. This word isn't necessarily forgotten though. I've heard people talk about "dollop" for years, especially when referring to putting honey into tea or sour cream on a baked potato. It's also a popular comedy podcast that's been around since 2014.

In fact, when I Googled "dollop," there were 32 million entries. Which means Wayne State is trying to revive a word that is still doing quite well, like using a defibrillator on someone who's just out of breath.

They're also bringing back "blatherskite," which refers to a person who talks at great length without making much sense, which describes the geezer gatherings at McDonald's. For example, "Every morning, McDonald's is filled with blatherskites solving the world's problems over mediocre coffee."

Joining "blatherskite" in their "kaffeeklatsch" (another Wayne State word) is "rawgabbit." That's a person who speaks confidently but ignorantly.

What a stroke of luck that both words are being revived in time for the 2024 presidential campaign!

A 2023 StudyInternational.com article wanted to bring back rawgabbit because it ". . .capture(s) the abundance of empty talk and trivial conversations that often pervade our interactions, particularly in the age of social media and constant communication."

Hopefully, that means when I ask someone how they're doing, they won't say, "Just living the dream."

I'm not holding my breath though.

My favorite word on this year's list is "thunderplump." That's an early 19th-century Scottish word for a heavy and sudden rain shower that happens during a thunderstorm; it's not the first thing that went through your mind. Pervert.

It is also not the sound I make when I flop down onto the sofa, despite what my kids say.

Following a thunderplump comes the "petrichor," another Wayne State reinstatement. Petrichor is the pleasant smell that follows the first rain after a long period of warm and dry weather. It smells like the Earth just had a bath.

Finally, Wayne State is reviving the word "pawky," which means to have a mocking or cynical sense of humor. I realize some people may accuse me of being pawky, but in my defense, there are just some people who deserve to be laughed at and mocked for being blatherskites and rawgabbits.

They're going to be asking for your votes for the next eleven months.

Photo credit: Vegan Feast Catering (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.