These Words Deserve a Comeback

As I said, I’m loving America In So Many Words. It’s great for getting acquainted with American history and some awesome random trivia. But it also has led me to discover a bunch of words that really ought to make a comeback.

  • kinnikinnick– a mixture of leaves for smoking (1729)
  • netop– a friend (1643)
  • punk– overcooked corn; slow-burning sticks; and, of course, a small-time hoodlum (originally 1618)
  • squaw winter– an early cold spell (contrasting with an indian summer) (1777)
    • Note: Though the settlers imbued the term “squaw” with a derogatory connotation, it originally meant a leader who was a woman. Maybe we should get squaw back to its roots!
  • pumpkin head– a New England colonist hairstyle, created by placing a pumpkin shell on someone’s head and cutting around it! (1654)
    • I imagine this is much like the ’90s fad of the “bowl cut”
  • backlog– the large log placed in the back of a fire, along with “top-stick,” “fore-stick,” and “and-irons”(1684)
    • nowadays, it’s an accumulation
  • prairie schooner- a covered wagon (1841)
  • loggerhead– a slow-witted person (ok, this one is Shakespeare)
  • johnny cake or jonakin– cornbread (1739)
  • breechclout– a clout of piece of cloth to cover one’s breech (buttocks) (1757)
  • bust my buttons– to strain or laugh (1921)
  • busticated- broken (1916)
  • bustified – pot-bellied (1939)
  • bee– a social, busy gathering (1768); also frolic
    • we’ve kept “spelling bee,” but they also had wood chopping bees, painting bees, and even kissing bees!
  • drugstore cowboy- someone who puts on airs of being tough or sophisticated (1779)
  • bug- an enthusiast, now a fan (1785); ex. baseball bug
  • keno-essentially, the modern lottery; a game where players mark of numbers printed on a ticket- the keno caller draws numbers on keno balls from a keno goose to determine the winner (1814)
  • bunkum- nonsense OR (a competing definition from the same time) excellent and outstanding (1819)
  • blizzard- a knock-down blow or punch (1825)
  • sockdolager- a decisive blow; something or someone big (1827)
    • interestingly, one of the last words President Abraham Lincoln ever heard!
  • callithumpian- a noisy parade (early 19th century)
  • slumgullion- something disgusting (early 19th century)
  • slangwhanger- a partisan speechmaker (early 19th century)
  • rawheel/tenderfoot- a beginner or newcomer (1849)
  • high muckamuck- plenty of food or someone who assumes an air of importance (1856); we’re left now with “muckety mucks”
  • hulloo- a predecessor to “hello” (1885)
  • jellybean– a derogatory term for someone weak or timid (1905)

I don’t know about you, but these are basically the cool kinds of words that I’ve always wanted out of a word-a-day calendar.

Whattya say? Can we give these all-American words a new life? Do you have any favorite obscure words?

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