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Forgotten Words

Reposted from The Huffington Post, October 16, 2014

An A to Z of Noah Webster’s Finest Forgotten Words

by  Become a fan Author, writer, musician
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, marking the birthday of the great American lexicographer Noah Webster. Born in Connecticut in 1758, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, in 1806, but it was his two-volume American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1828 (when he was 70 years old) that earned him his place in history as the foremost lexicographer of American English.

The statistics alone speak for themselves: Webster’s American Dictionary took him 28 years to complete. In preparation he learned 26 languages, including Old English, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. The final draft listed and defined 70,000 words, more than any other dictionary in history (and 30,000 more than Samuel Johnson’s dictionary had almost a century earlier). 1 in every 6 of Webster’s words had never been listed in a dictionary before; as a dictionary of American English, he radically chose to include a whole new vocabulary of emerging Americanisms like squash, skunk, hickory, chowder and applesauce for the very first time. And he famously took the opportunity to push through his ideas on English spelling reform – some of which took (center, color, honor, ax), and some of which didn’t (dawter, wimmen, cloke, tung).

Despite all of his efforts, Webster’s dictionary sold just 2,500 copies on its publication and he was compelled to mortgage his home in New Haven to fund a second edition in 1840. Three years later, having never quite gained the recognition his work deserved in his lifetime, he died at the age of 84. Today however, as both a literary and scholarly achievement Webster’s 1828 dictionary is widely regarded as both the first truly comprehensive dictionary of American English, and as one of the most important dictionaries in the history of our language. So to mark World Dictionary Day – and to celebrate what would be Webster’s 256th birthday – here are 26 of some of the most curious, most surprising and most obscure words from Webster’s Dictionary in one handy A to Z.

Defined by Webster as “wise afterwards or too late” — or in other words, the perfect term for describing that feeling of knowing exactly what you should have said (or done) after the opportunity to say it (or do it) has passed you by. Other useful after- words on Webster’s list were after-game (a subsequent scheme or plan), after-supper (the time between supper and going to bed), and after-tossing (the rolling of the sea after a storm has passed).

“Senseless prattle” or “unmeaning words,” according to Webster. To twattle, incidentally, is to gossip or chatter.

Cycopede is all but unique to Webster, who defined it as both a variation of cyclopedia (as in encyclopedia), and as a term for the entire “circle of human knowledge.”

As a verb, to daggle is “to befoul” or “dirty”, or more specifically, “to trail in mud or wet grass”. The adjective daggle-tail ultimately describes someone “having the lower ends of garments defiled with mud.”

Another of Webster’s clever compound adjectives, this time describing any sound that “sets up the ears”.

The perfect name for “an insignificant fellow” — Webster described this word as “vulgar and not used.”

An old-fashioned word for a ventriloquist, or as Webster explains, “one who so modified his voice that it seems to come from another person or place.”

On the rare occasions when hugger-mugger appears in modern English, it’s typically used to describe a state of noisy confusion or uproar. According to Webster, however, it was a “low cant word” synonymous with privacy or clandestineness — doing something in hugger-mugger, he explained, meant doing it in absolute secrecy.

A formal word for “the act of ensnaring; a catching or entrapping.”

A jackpudding is a “merry-andrew” or “a zany” according to Webster — in other words, a joker who acts the fool to make other people laugh.

As loaves of bread expand in the oven as they’re cooked, a kissing-crust forms when they spread so far that they touch.

Derived from the Latin word for distance, longinquity is a formal word for remoteness or isolation, or for any vast distance in space or time.

To stammer or stumble on your words. To faffel means the same thing.

If something is nuncupatory then it exists in name only. The word can also be used to describe a verbal rather than written agreement.

Literally means “to walk about.” The horseback equivalent, incidentally, is to obequitate — or “to ride about.”

The strong string or twine used to wrap parcels? That’s packthread.

A quadrin was old copper coin, which Webster explains was “in value [worth] about a farthing”. Its name can also be used figuratively of any tiny amount of something, or an insignificant amount of cash.

“A vile, dissolute wretch” — also known as a rampallion, a scroyle, a runnion, a pander, a cullion and (if they seem destined to a life of crime) a crack-rope.

To sheep-bite is “to practice petty thefts” according to Webster. Some of his other criminally underused S-words include scantle (“to divide into small pieces”), scranch (“to grind with the teeth”), stalactical (“resembling an icicle”), squabbish (“thick, fat, heavy”) and stramash (“to beat,” “to destroy”). Less useful is sniggle, defined as “to fish for eels by thrusting the bait into their holes.”

“Slow-paced; moving or stepping slowly.”

To uptrain is “to educate” — literally “to train up.”

Derived from the Latin word for the spring, to vernate is “to become young again.”

To wrangle is “to dispute angrily” or “to involve in contention,” according to Webster. So if you’re wranglesome, then you’re “quarrelsome and contentious.”

Xerophagy is “the eating of dry meats,” according to Webster, who described the practice as “a sort of fast among the primitive Christians.” In all, he listed just 13 words under X in his dictionary – which is 13 more than Samuel Johnson, who instead stated that “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language.”

Also called a yoke-fellow, a yoke-mate is “an associate or companion.”

Z fairs slightly better than X in Webster’s dictionary, with a total of 85 entries in all. A zuffolo, he explains, is “a little flute… especially that which is used to teach birds.”


Hello Writers!

Welcome to Rumpelstiltskin Editorial Services!

If you are here, there’s a good chance that you have recently finished (or will soon finish) writing your book. Admittedly, it is a nagging and sometimes unpleasant part of the process for all parties involved, as editing books is sometimes as trying for editors as it is for authors.

But we have to face reality. No one on Earth is capable of writing a book that does not require some degree of editing, so now one of three things is going to happen:

1)  Once you have finished the book, you are going to have to get someone else to read it, whether it be a friend or spouse or former English professor. You are no longer a good judge, as you’ve read your manuscript perhaps hundreds of times in the process of writing and revising. So even as brilliant as you are, you have to realize that your work would benefit by being reviewed by a fresh mind and a fresh set of eyes—to lend a fresh perspective.

If your reader/friend/beta testing group is thorough, you will be rewarded with a critique that addresses various areas of manuscript concern, from the general to the specific. Is the story interesting and believable? Do the characters feel real? Does the action stall in places? Is the manuscript clean and free of errors? Are there instances of bad writing habits that will distract readers? Does the dialogue ring natural in the ears? Is the narrative creative and engaging?

While criticism, if it is honest, can sometimes be brutal and discouraging, you will have to humble yourself and strive to carefully consider the critiques, comments and suggestions you receive. Your focus should be on the manuscript itself and making it the best it can be.  And finally, when it is done, you would do well to get a second reader/friend/beta group to go over it get yet another perspective prior to submitting it for publication.

2) Once you have finished the book, you are going to hire a professional copy editor or proofreader to work on the manuscript to make it ready for submission. We hope, for your sake, this professional will provide you an inexpensive editorial assessment prior to beginning any work on your manuscript.

Prior to commencement of any editorial work, you should have a good idea about what this professional is going to do to improve your manuscript, in specific detail. Determine if the work involves mere copy editing, or if there are significant issues with the story or the writing. Will the work involve eliminating specific problem writing habits or plot development? Is there a concern with your characters or dialogue? Whatever the assessment provides, ask the copy editor or editorial professional to enumerate the tasks to be performed and to demonstrate it on five or ten pages of your manuscript. In this way, you can determine how much value of the proposed editing will provide to your work.

Editorial services can be expensive, and not all providers who claim to be editors are true professionals. Ask other writers or instructors for referrals before seeking an editorial service provider  on the Internet, and once you have found one, always check references. And finally, once a price is quoted, never pay the balance in full. The industry standard is 50% down at the commencement of editing, with the balance paid upon completion.

3) Once you have finished the book, you are going to work with Rumpelstiltskin Editorial Services to make your manuscript ready for publishing. You will submit your work on the appropriately titled page, along with a synopsis of the work and an author bio (if possible).

Low-Cost Manuscript Assessment ($37.50): This service is provided for authors who want to under if there are significant editorial issues contained in the manuscript. One of our professional copy editors will peruse the entire manuscript, checking to determine if there persistent errors in punctuation, grammar, spelling, subject-verb agreement, sentence fragments, sentence structure and overall readability. This copy editor’s assessment will be presented as a three-page document containing general details and copy editor’s work on the first ten pages of your manuscript. The CEA will give you a basic idea of what work your manuscript might need going forward.

Copy Editor’s Assessment ($37.50)

Copy Editor’s Recommendation ($225): If you do not have the money to pay for professional editorial services, and either you or someone you know has a publishing/editing background, you might be better off ordering a CER (Copy Editor’s Recommendation). This will involve the specialized efforts of one of our copy editors, who will spend three hours analyzing your manuscript (focusing on the first fifty pages), highlighting/commenting on writing problems/issues, while providing specific recommendations. This copy editor will provide detailed comments/corrections and recommendations in the following areas:

Copy Editor’s Recommendation ($225.00)

Taking the recommendation, you or your editorial resource will be able to go through the manuscript, making necessary corrections, and get the manuscript ready for submission at a fraction of the cost you would have paid for the full professional editing service.

Purchase Editorial Services (according to your specific needs): Sometimes a manuscript it fairly clean, and yet there is a single component (or maybe two components, as listed above) that need work. In such a case, you can purchase Component Editing, paying for only the services you need. Notwithstanding, we provide a full-range of editorial services, including Copy Editing, Line Editing, Proofreading, Polish, Consulting, Coaching and Encouragement.

Whatever you decide to do, please take the time to scroll through our site to see what service we may offer you. And if you have a comment, experience or suggestion for us, please share it in the box below.