I had the pleasure recently of sharing a brew or two with a group of colleagues, one of whom shares my deep abiding love of words. I’m not entirely certain how the topic came up, but he made me aware of the ongoing problem of missing words: words that should be in the dictionary, but aren’t.
For example, we’re all familiar with the words mileage, yardage, and footage. So what happened to inchage?
We all understand that overcast means clouds that appear overhead which block out your view of the sun. Doesn’t it follow, logically, that undercast should mean clouds that appear below, to block out your view of the earth (as when riding in an airplane)? The same argument could be made for overhang (underhang?)
Ken (the linguaphile to whom I referred in the first paragraph) has been successful in having one of our missing words added back into the dictionary. The commonly used word ruthless, (without pity or compassion; cruel; merciless) has it’s origin in the Middle English word reuthe (pity, compassion). The logical opposite of ruthless, which is ruthful, has disappeared entirely from use, unless the speaker/writer is being deliberately archaic. However, reuthe has been re-entered into Webster’s, after Ken made a call to a friend who is on the editorial staff.
Which brings us to lumthuxious (or lumthuksuous – the spelling is still open to debate). This is a word meaning extremely delicious. Ken made it up. He thinks it should be added to the dictionary – he’s a linguaphile, after all. We all want to get credit for coining a new word.