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Words can be classified according to the period of their life in the language.
We can have archaisms, words which have come out of active usage, and
neologisms, words which have recently appeared in the language.
Archaisms are words which are no longer used in everyday speech, which
have been ousted by their synonyms. Archaisms remain in the language, but they
are used as stylistic devices to express solemnity.
Most of these words are lexical archaisms and they are stylistic synonyms of
words which ousted them from the neutral style: steed (horse), slay (kill),
perchance (perhaps), betwixt (between). These lexical archaisms belong to the
poetic style.
Whe the causes of the word‘s disappearance are extra-linguistic, e.g. when
the thing is no longer used, its name becomes a historism. Historisms are very
numerous as names for social relations, institutions, objects of material culture of
the past. here belong such transport means as brougham, berlin, fly, gig; also such
vehicles as prairie schooner, also such boats as caravel, galleon, and such
weapons as breastplate, crossbow, arrow, vizor.
In language, an archaism is a word, a sense of a word, or a style of speech or writing that belongs to a historical epoch long beyond living memory, but that has sur-
vived in a few practical settings or affairs. Lexical archaisms are single archaic words
or expressions used regularly in an affair (e.g. religion or law) or freely; literary archaism is the survival of archaic language in a traditional literary text such as a nursery rhyme or the deliberate use of a style characteristic of an earlier age—for example,
in his 1960 novel The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth writes in an 18th-century
style.[1] Archaic words or expressions may have distinctive emotional connotations—some can be humorous (forsooth), some highly formal (What say you?), and
some solemn (With thee do I plight my troth).
Archaisms are most frequently encountered in history, poetry, fantasy literature,
law, philosophy, science, technology, geography and ritual writing and speech. Archaisms are kept alive by these ritual and literary uses and by the study of older literature. Should they remain recognised, they can potentially be revived.
Because they are things of continual discovery and re-invention, science and
technology have historically generated forms of speech and writing which have dated
and fallen into disuse relatively quickly. However, the emotional associations of certain words have kept them alive, for example: 'Wireless' rather than 'Radio' for a generation of British citizens who lived through the Second World War, even though the
older word 'wireless' is an archaism, and in recent years the term has gained renewed
A similar desire to evoke a former age means that archaic place names are frequently used in circumstances where doing so conveys a political or emotional subtext, or when the official new name is not recognised by all (for example: 'Madras'
rather than 'Chennai'). So, a restaurant seeking to conjure up historic associations
might prefer to call itself Old Bombay or refer to Persian cuisine in preference to using the newer place name. A notable contemporary example is the name of the airline
Cathay Pacific, which uses the archaic Cathay ("China").
Archaisms are frequently misunderstood, leading to changes in usage. One example is found in the phrase "the odd man out", which originally came from the phrase
"to find the odd man out", where the verb "to find out" has been split by its object
"the odd man", meaning the item which does not fit.
The compound adverbs and prepositions found in the writing of lawyers (e.g.
heretofore, hereunto, thereof) are examples of archaisms as a form of jargon. Some
phraseologies, especially in religious contexts, retain archaic elements that are not
used in ordinary speech in any other context: "With this ring I thee wed." Archaisms
are also used in the dialogue of historical novels in order to evoke the flavour of the
period. Some may count as inherently funny words and are used for humorous effect.
A type of archaism is the use of thou, the second-person singular pronoun that fell
out of general use in the 17th century, while you or ye, formerly only used to address
groups, and then also to respectfully address individuals, is now used to address both
individuals and groups (but since this can result in ambiguity, y'all can be used to reintroduce the distinction). Thou is the nominative form; the oblique/objective form is
thee (functioning as both accusative and dative), and the possessive is thy or thine.
Though thou hast ever so many counsellors, yet ["yet" is generally not an archaism, but it is in this context] do not forsake the counsel of thy own soul.
— English proverb
Today me, tomorrow thee.
— English proverb
The meaning of this proverb is that something that happens to a person, is likely to
eventually happen to another who observes it, especially if the two people are similar.
To thine own self be true.
—William Shakespeare
The meaning of this saying is simply that it is unwise to lie to yourself. In its contemporary context it meant to be true (loyal, faithful, supportive) to one's own interests (the 'self' of person, property, and goals). In other words, put yourself before others.
Archaisms in proverbs are often retained, far longer than in other parts of the language. This is because they make the proverbs "fall easier on the tongue",[5] and also
because of the rhetorical effect they evoke by the use of two of the four fundamental
operations in rhetoric. Namely, permutation (immutatio) and addition (adiectio).
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