Posted by: Jack Henry | October 27, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Fossil Words, Part 2

Fossil words are words that are not widely used outside of one or two well-known phrases. For example, the word ado has been fossilized in the phrases "without further ado" and "much ado about nothing."

Here are 14 more fossil words, along with the phrases in which you can still find them. The definitions are from Merriam-Webster.

· amok: in an undisciplined, uncontrolled, or faulty manner ("run amok")

· bate: reduce the force or intensity of ("bated breath")

· beck: summons, bidding ("beck and call")

· bygone: gone by; past ("let bygones be bygones")

· craw: the stomach ("stick in one’s craw")

· desert: deserved reward or punishment ("just deserts")

· dint: force, power ("by dint of")

· eke: to get with great difficulty ("eke out")

· fro: back, away ("to and fro")

· hale: retaining exceptional health and vigor ("hale and hearty")

· hither: to this place ("hither and yon")

· immemorial: extending or existing since beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition ("time immemorial")

· jetsam: the part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is cast overboard to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore ("flotsam and jetsam")

· ken: the range of perception, understanding, or knowledge ("beyond one’s ken")

Bonus Spelling Tips

The phrases "bated breath" and "just deserts" trip up many spellers who mistake the fossil words bated and deserts for the more common homophones baited and desserts. Here are some tips to help you remember the correct spellings.

Bate is a shortened form of the verb abate (meaning "to reduce in intensity"). When you’re excited, you might reduce the intensity of your breathing.

Tip: Think of "abated breath," and then drop the a.

Desert (in the sense of "just deserts") and deserve come from the same Anglo-French word: deserver.

Tip: A just desert is deserved.

In my next post, I’ll list 13 more fossil words and warn you about two more common spelling traps. I know you’ll be waiting with bated breath.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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  1. […] my last two posts (here and here), I discussed fossil words (words that are not widely used outside of one or two well-known […]

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