Old, Forgotten, Wonderful Words


Still Useful Today

By Annette Rey

Words show what writers want to tell their readers. Flabbergast, and gunshots punctuated the riverfront night, and shattered opera glasses, and bellicose, all conjure up images in our minds. Speaking and writing should be rich with descriptive, picture-haunting words. And writers should not be stingy with their use.

But what about using outdated words?

In a recent post I focused on one old word (Writers Reaching Backwards) and that spurred me on to write of some more wonderful words.

I like the SOUND of these words. Read them out loud. Pause. Listen. Chew them up in your mind – and your mouth – like you are savoring your favorite meal.

  • nashgab
  • gnashgab
  • bafflegab
  • snollygoster
  • grobian
  • maffiard
  • mumblecrust
  • cockalorum
  • lotterel
  • mandrake mymmerkin

Never mind they are old and most of your readers will not recognize them. If you write in context, they will know the meaning. That is how showing in your writing makes your work sing. And words are musical. These are exciting words I want to use in my writing.

Now to their definitions:

  • Nashgab means chatter or insolent talk.
  • Gnashgab means a person who is always complaining.
  • Bafflegab means deliberately using unintelligible language or jargon for the purpose of obfuscation as commonly heard by politicians.
  • Snollygoster is a shrewd, unprincipled person, as in politicians and others.
  • Grobian is a clownish, slovenly person.
  • Maffiard is a stammering or blundering fool.
  • Mumblecrust is a toothless beggar.
  • Cockalorum is a boastful, self-important person; a strutting little fellow.
  • Lotterel is a rogue or scoundrel.
  • Mandrake mymmerkin means a little man.

I think all of these speak for themselves. The definitions of most of them sort of materialize with the verbalization of them. While time won’t allow me to give the derivation to all of these words, I think the last one is extremely interesting and just SO self-explanatory. The mandrake is a plant, the root of which looks like a small human. Mymmerkin derives from the word mannekin. Hence, little man. So simple.

And once you know, you can place this knowledge in your writing. Today, no one would call a toothless beggar a mumblecrust, but if you have a character that is so, you can call him that or have another character refer to him that way. And by adeptly describing your beggar, the word will decorate your paragraph and be understandable to your readers.

You must exercise your mind and create scenes that draw your readers in, where they want to stay because they are enjoying themselves. And how better to exercise than to use unfamiliar words and push yourself to be a better descriptive writer?

Don’t fill your work with meaningless nashgab and don’t be a misleading bafflegab. Fill your work with slobby grobians and deceitful snollygosters and conniving lotterels and clumsy maffiards. And an insecure mandrake mymmerkin could also have the swaggering characteristics of a cockalorum. And let’s not forget the sore-gummed mumblecrust. Will you make him a grumpy, dissatisfied gnashgab?

See. You can have so much fun with wonderful words!

Share that experience with your audience.





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