Archaic, Obsolescent, Obsolete words



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Archaic, Obsolescent, Obsolete words



We shall distinguish three stages in the aging process of words:

The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. To this category first of all belong morphological forms .belonging to the earlier stages in the development of the language. In the English language these are the pronouns thou and its forms thee, thy and thine;

The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are still recognized by the English-speaking community: e. g. methinks (=it seems to me); nay (=no). These words are called obsolete.

The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern English, words that were in use in Old English and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e. g. troth (faith); a losel (=a worthless, lazy fellow).

The border lines between the groups are not distinct. In fact they interpenetrate. It is specially difficult to distinguish between obsolete and obsolescent words. But the difference is important when we come to deal with the stylistic aspect of an utterance in which the given word serves a certain stylistic purpose.

The function of archaic words and constructions in official docu­ments is terminological in character. They are used here because they help to maintain that exactness of expression so necessary in this style.

Archaic words and particularly archaic forms of words are sometimes used for satirical purposes

Slang, Jargonisms

There is hardly any other term that is as ambiguous and obscure as the term slang. Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English.

Slang – is a language peculiar to a particular group as the special and often secret vocabulary and usually felt to be vulgar or inferior

Slang - language of a highly colloquial type considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.

Many words formerly labelled as slang have now become legitimate units of standard English. Thus the word kid (=child), which was considered low slang in the nineteenth century, is now a legitimate colloquial unit of the English literary language.

If a slang word or phrase does become stale, it is replaced by a new slangism. It is claimed that this satisfies the natural desire for fresh, newly created words and expressions, which give to an utter­ance emotional colouring and a subjective evaluation.

bread-basket—'the stomach'

the cat's pyjamas—'the correct thing

In the non-literary vocabulary of the English language there is a group of words that are called jargonisms. Jargon is a recognized term for a group of words that exists in almost every language and whose aim is to preserve secrecy within one or another social group.

Jargonisms are generally old words with entirely new meanings imposed on them. The traditional meaning of the words is immaterial, only the new, improvised meaning is of importance. Most of the Jargonisms of any language, and of the English language too, are absolutely incompre­hensible to those outside the social group which has invented them. They may be defined as a code within a code

Thus the word grease means 'money'; loaf means 'head'; a tiger hunter is 'a gambler'; a lexer is 'a student preparing for a law course'.

Jargonisms are social in character. They are not regional. In Britain and in the US almost any social group of people has its own jargon. The following jargons are well known in the English language: the jargon of thieves and vagabonds, generally known as cant; the jargon of jazz people; the jargon of the army, known as military slang; the jargon of sportsmen, and many others.



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