Casualties of Time: quanked, bovate & ecbole


Most lost words were lost for a reason – they no longer served any useful purpose. But the word quanked (meaning to be overpowered by fatigue) – now that is an awesome word, and I would love if it were brought back. It’s so darn expressive.

If only one COULD look this glamorous when quanked. The below is much more realistic...

If only one COULD look this glamorous when quanked. The below is much more realistic…


Another word I like, but completely understand why it is now defunct, is bovate, which, according to the Free Online Dictionary means:

n. An oxgang, or as much land as an ox can plow in a year […] usually estimated at fifteen acres.

It originated in the late C17th in Danelaw England (i.e. Viking-conquered parts of the country). It is so wonderfully practical and earthy, no? Completely useless today, and therefore charming to know. Perhaps I’ll have recourse to use it if I one day write a novel set back then.


One more great, old-world word, and this too I would like revived, is ecbole. It refers to a digression or a tangent (i.e. to wander off track while writing or speaking). It also has some other, related medical meanings, but I think the rhetoric-based meaning could conceivably be brought back in the future.

The blog 100 words says to pronounce it as “ek bowl ee”, placing stress on the “ek”.

Future forgotten words

Speaking of forgotten words, wouldn’t it be nice if one could nominate current words for extinction? Words and phrases I would rid today’s world of include:

moist. Believe it or not, I’ve read that this is the most hated word in the English language. You seldom use it to describe something nice or good.

– “pleas, Treas” as in “pleasure, Treasure” because:


I’d change “ironically” to “mockingly”, but yes, now this phrase often comes out of its own volition, so the joke is heavily on me! In fact, I’d rid us of all cheap shortenings, such as ‘champ’ for champion.

sardonic. I never seem to be able to fully grasp and remember the meaning of this word, and so it bugs me every time I hear it. It’s my personal, lexiconic Kryptonite.

ointment. That really is a horrid word, with horrible rhythm.

grin. Whenever I read “… he said, grinning, …” I want to throw something, because, to me, grin is the most annoying, misused word out there. Don’t you hate reading a romantic scene wherein someone grins, because immediately thereafter everything feels cheesy? (Klap me if you ever catch me grinning.)

titillate. This, to me, is possibly the most gross-sounding word ever. It’s just plain ew.

– and, finally, snake. Because I hate snakes, forever and always.

I’ve tried to steer clear of words we dislike because we dislike their meanings, for example:

– mucous, foetid, gonorrhea (although the spelling of some of these is pretty ghastly too, and the sound of the word ‘pimple’ gives me the creeps).

Wordly sainthood

How about words that deserve canonisation? I suggest:

–          obliterated (nominee for best onomatopoeic word)

–          juxtaposition (makes you feel smart just to say it)

–          singular (I’m not entirely sure why I enjoy saying this word – maybe the way your mouth has to work around it?)

–          bottle (but said with a glottal stop – I really enjoy saying it that way. Cockneys, I think, say it like that.)

–          scintillating (the virtuous, but not goody two-shoes, cousin of titillating)

–          suffuse (so communicative)

–          susurration (i.e. a whispering; in fact, most of my favourite words are onomatopoeias, a word, ironically, that I hate, because I can never spell it on my own)

–          ridonculous (best slang word ever)

–          peace (beautiful in every way).

I’ve written much of this post off the cuff, having embraced an unplanned ecbole of my own (ha!) midway through the post, and haven’t therefore thought on my lists overly much. But I won’t quank us out by trying to devise an exhaustive list (okay, that was terribly forced, I know, but I enjoyed modernising ‘quanked’ into ‘quank out’). Please feel free to suggest any more words. And do you agree with my favourites and hatreds?


If you enjoyed reading this, you would probably also be interested in:

Exaltation of doves & destruction of wild cats: mediaeval collective nouns

Horses sweat, men sweat, and ladies sweat just the same


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