I’m in love. There, I said it. I’m in love and I know my life will never be the same again. And - it gets better. It turns out it’s always been this way. Yes, I’ve been in love all this time and just not realised it!
So who is my new beloved? What name is to be tattooed on my chest, so as to be as close as possible to my heart? Fossil words. Yes: fossil words.
A quick definition
Fossil words are words that are obsolete, but remain in use solely because of their presence in existing idioms - like ‘amok’ from the phrase ‘run amok’, and ‘batten’ from the phrase ‘batten down the hatches’.
Right, back to the love letter…
Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that so wonderfully, achingly cool?
To exist solely for one purpose, an essential ingredient in an utterly unique venture. Part of a crack team brought together for just one mission, and absolutely reliant on the other members of that team for your very survival. What romance! What daring!
But, as I said, it gets better. Because as well as existing for such spine-tinglingly snazzy reasons, fossil words just happen to be some of my favourite ever words too. What a wondrous coincidence!
We’ve already covered ‘amok’ and ‘batten’, two undeniably fine specimens. But take a long, lingering look at these beauties:
I mean, come on, they’re ALL wonderful! It’s like a Who’s Who of Great Words in the English Language.
And that’s before we take in this fab four: bygones, mettel, petard and shebang (as in ‘let bygones be bygones’, ‘test one’s mettel’, ‘hoist by your own petard’ and ‘the whole shebang’, respectively)!
Think it can’t get any better…?
…Think again, folks.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: caboodle. Yes, caboodle (as in ‘the whole kit and caboodle’). I mean, CABOODLE, for goodness sake. What a joy!
So there you have it: words that should no longer exist, but that cling to life for a wonderful and noble reason. And more than that, quite separately and quite by chance, some of the finest, richest and most joyous words ever to grace the English language.
Fossil words, come hither, I love you.