Academics uncover 30 English Words That ‘lost’

Jodie Whittaker in the BBC series “Trust Me” – the story of a “Quacksalver”

We were delighted to read the article recently published on and feature it here:

Snout-fair, dowsabel and percher are among 30 “lost” words which experts believe are still in current use.

Researchers have drawn up the list to persuade people that these defunct words can still have a relevance.

Snout-fair is a word for handsome, dowsabel means “lady-love”, and a percher is a social climber.

Dominic Watt, senior linguistics lecturer at the University of York, said he hoped people would re-engage with the language of old.

The team spent three months searching through old books and dictionaries to create the list.

 A few of the ‘lost’ words:
  • Nickum A cheating or dishonest person
  • Peacockize To behave like a peacock; esp. to pose or strut ostentatiously
  • Rouzy-bouzy Boisterously drunk
  • Ruff To swagger, bluster, domineer. To ruff it out / to brag or boast of a thing
  • Tremblable Causing dread or horror; dreadful
  • Awhape To amaze, stupefy with fear, confound utterly

Mr Watt wants to bring these words back into modern conversations.

“We’ve identified lost words that are both interesting and thought-provoking, in the hope of helping people re-engage with language of old,” he said.

“Snout-fair”, for example, means “having a fair countenance; fair-faced, comely, handsome”, while “sillytonian” refers to “a silly or gullible person, esp one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people”.

“Dowsabel” is “applied generically to a sweetheart, ‘lady-love'”.

Margot Leadbetter, the snobby neighbour from 1970s BBC sitcom, The Good Life, could be seen as an arch example of a “percher” – someone “who aspires to a higher rank or status; an ambitious or self-assertive person”.

Margo Leadbetter:
Now listen very carefully to me, Mr… umm, Mr. Squires. I have itemized the components of my rates bill scrupulously.
Mr. Squires:
As every citizen should Mrs. Leadbetter.
Margo Leadbetter:
I am not a citizen. I am a resident. Now, road cleaning, I shall pay. Street lighting, I shall pay. Ground rent, I shall pay. But when it comes to the drain in front of my house, I shall not. Because it is blocked up and overflowing.
Mr. Squires:
I’ll make a note of that.
Margo Leadbetter:
You will do more than that, Mr. Squires. You will have a plumber on my door step at nine o’clock tomorrow morning with a plunger in his hand, or you will not get a penny.
Mr. Squires:
Just who do think you are, Mrs. Leadbetter?
Margo Leadbetter:
I am the silent majority.

The BBC series Trust Me is the story of a “quacksalver” – a person who “dishonestly claims knowledge of, or skill in, medicine; a pedlar of false cures”.

Joey Essex: “Snout-fair” to some, to others a “sillytonian”

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