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Tuesday, 10 July 2012 19:39

Cripes! LOL - Words we lose and gain

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A string of traditionally British words such as ‘cripes’ and ‘balderdash’ are dying out amid the popularity of shortened text-style terms, it has emerged. Experts found a significant decrease in the use of words which our parents and grandparents would have uttered on an almost daily basis. Other words which have fallen by the wayside amid the LOL generation are ‘rambunctious’, ‘verily’, ‘salutations’ and ‘betwixt’.

"As languages mutate just as words and idioms die out new ones emerge. The folly is to try and stem the tide of the new whether they emerge from rap, technology, teenspeak, or the multitude of jargons that we invent to make shortcuts and communication more efficient between groups."  J. P Davison, author of Planet Word


The worrying trend was revealed in a study carried out among 2,000 adults to mark the launch of “Planet Word”, a book by J. P Davison which tells the story of language from the earliest grunts to Twitter and beyond.

Yesterday J.P. Davidson, the author of Planet Word said: “Language is something that is constantly evolving. You only have to look on Twitter to see evidence of the fact that a lot of English words that are used say in Shakespeare’s plays or PG Wodehouse novels – both of them avid inventors of new words – are so little used that people don’t even know what they mean now.

“This could be viewed as regrettable, as there are some great descriptive words that are being lost and these words would make our everyday language much more colourful and fun if we were to use them.

“But it’s only natural that with people trying to fit as much information in 140 characters that words are getting shortened and are even becoming redundant as a result. But all is not gloom.”

Language change linked to Twitter

The report found 73 per cent agree language had changed dramatically since people started using text messaging and Twitter. And they agreed ‘longer’ words were become increasingly outdated. Researchers also found only 82 per cent are familiar with the word ‘raconteur’ and 70 per cent have never used the word ‘shenanigans’.

One in fifteen adults has never used the word ‘drat’ and half didn’t know what a ‘cad’ was. Despite this 83 per cent think they have a good vocabulary. One quarter of Brits say they now use ‘text speak’, like ‘lol’, ‘jel’ and ‘soz’ when in verbal conversation as well as using it in written communication on mobile phones, emails and social media sites.

Other words that Brits said they didn’t use anymore included ‘bally’, ‘swell’ and ‘rambunctious’. Just nine per cent have used the word ‘bogus’ and only ten per cent have used ‘fiddlesticks’ and only three quarters have used ‘oopsy-daisy’. Only half have use ‘knackered’ and three quarters have never used ‘diabolical’ while three quarters don’t use ‘cheerio’ and a fifth say they don’t know what ‘myriad’ means.

Most Brits admitted they often come across words they don’t know the meaning of with teenagers and those in their twenties finding this happening more frequently than any other age group. Fifteen per cent of Brits say they would have a bad impression of someone who used longer words and language that wasn’t as common and was a little outdated.

Seven out of ten say they use different words and now to what they used ten years ago and said they embraced slang and regularly used it. Most said they enjoyed learning new words and liked the idea of the language changing. But despite this more than a quarter  of parents said they were often baffled by the language and slang their children used  while a similar amount admitted being equally confused by words their elderly parents used.

Planet Word is the official tie in book to accompany the Stephen Fry series of the same name and Stephen said: “This book will delight you and perhaps make you think afresh about the free, inexhaustible and delicious resource that lies somewhere in your brain and allows you to be who you are. But next time you speak or write, do not try to work out what is going on socially, culturally, neurally, intellectually or physiologically. The effort is beyond us all and you might just explode. Instead celebrate.”

Tutors Directory asks: does it depend the the ages of those polled?  Do you still use many traditional words? Are you a die-hard traditional wordsmith? Post your comment below!

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 20:00

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