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Lost for words: 14 expressions that have vanished

Scrumdiddlyumptious. YOLO. Moobs. Uptalk. New words are being added to the dictionary on a fairly continual basis. But what about those words we leave behind? Certain terms have vanished from the language because they were too graphic, too confusing or just too difficult to say.

Here are just a few of the expressions that the Word of Mouth team (with a particular hat tip to lost word experts Laura Wright and Mark Forsyth) unearthed during their investigation into lost and banished words

1. Owl Jacket

Taken from the Italian ‘Giacca civetta', which refers to a jacket left on the back of a chair at work, so it looks like you are in the office working, rather than skiving at Costa.

“I’ve just noticed that Brian’s owl jacket has been there since 1994, which was the last time I actually saw him.”

2. Flype

An Old English word meaning to roll up your socks, stockings, leggings or jeggings, before putting them on. Though the word is originally English, it has been lost in England but still survives in Scotland to this day!

“I’ll be out in a minute Your Eminence, just need to flype my socks and slip my sandals on.”

3. Leper juice

An old medical term that refers to the pus found in the wounds of the afflicted. Thankfully it fell out of use due to its general horribleness.

“Thanks a lot Nigel, now you’ve got leper juice all over me.”

4. Vizzying-hole

A Scots word for a peephole in a door, derived from the Old French word visée meaning ‘look’.

“Sheila, have a quick shufty through the vizzying-hole and see if the maid’s coming while I stuff these towels in the suitcase.”

5. Uhtceare

An Old English word meaning to lie awake anxiously before dawn. Literally translated from the Old English it means the 'dawn-care'. It's similar to insomnia'(though more time-specific) in that it is a name (or noun) given to the state of being sleepless.

“Sorry about all the yawning, I had uhtceare because I was worrying about how I'm going to use up all of the courgettes.”

6. Sloom

To gently sleep or lightly slumber, from the Middle English slumen and the Old English slūmian.

“Sorry about the slooming, I had a bit of uhtceare because of my courgettes.”

7. Biffin

A deep red cooking apple. The name derives from ‘beefing’, in reference to the colour of the fruit. People would often exchange biffins at Christmastime.

“Great, I’ve got Norman in the Secret Santa. I hope he likes biffins because that’s all he’s getting.”

8. Gongoozler

A person who likes to mindlessly stare (at anything). If only we all had more time to stare idly and do nothing. The word survives in and around the canal boat community, to this day.

“Yeah, I’ll try and make it to your wedding, but I’ve got a lot of gongoozling planned for that weekend.”

9. Snollygoster

A 19th century American term for an unprincipled, dishonest person, especially a politician.

“That snollygoster came up to kiss my baby, but nicked my phone when I wasn’t looking.”

10. Mumpsimus

An obstinate person who holds on rigidly to a certain set of beliefs even though they are wrong or disproved. The term may have been coined by Erasmus.

“That silly mumpsimus still thinks Sporty was the best Spice Girl when everybody knows it was Posh.”

11. Wamblecropt

To have digestive issues that are so severe, you can’t physically move.

“I should never have had that sixteen piece chicken finger combo pack and Viennetta all to myself, now I’m wamblecropt.”

12. Groke

An old Scots word originally used to describe dogs staring longingly at food in order to be given some, but extended to refer to anyone gazing at grub.

“Please don’t groke at my sixteen piece chicken finger combo pack and Viennetta, it’s starting to upset me.”

13. Trullibubs

Another word for a person’s entrails, but can also be an insulting term aimed at an overweight person.

“Oi, trullibubs, did you just scoff my sixteen piece chicken finger combo pack and Viennetta?”

14. Sprunt

Not the soft drink that Alan Partridge was sponsored by, but a Victorian-era Scottish word meaning to chase girls around a haystack after dark. Possibly a combination of ‘spring’ and ‘hunt’.

“I really fancy a sprunt. All we need is a haystack, some girls and to wait for eight hours.”

An owl jacket in action.
This owl doesn't have a jacket, but would like one.
A quick sloom.
Can you spot a biffin?
Anybody round here will know what a gongoozler is.
Definitely sprunt material.

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