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16 OED Words That Became Obscure (Including Bransle, the Twerk of 1662)

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In a moment of cultural serendipity (or, depending on how you look at it, calamity), Oxford Dictionaries Online just announced that “twerk” made the list of new entries to its quarterly dictionary update. While the release of the update list reliably incites horror at the debasement of the venerable Oxford Dictionary institution, not to mention the English language in general, it is important to realize the difference between Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO)—a flexible, web-only collection focused on current English usage—and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), a historical record of the core of English, printed and bound on high-quality paper, from which words are never removed.

However, while most people respect the OED for enshrining the respectable, time-tested, stable fundament of English, they enjoy it for preserving the odd, rare, and obsolete, exactly the category of entry for which “twerk” is likely headed. Here are 16 words from the latest ODO update, matched up with 16 words from the OED that had short, obscure lives.

1. Twerk, Bransle

ODO - twerk, v.: “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”

OED - bransle, n.: “a kind of dance”
1662 (Samuel Pepys’ Diary) “They danced the Bransle.”

2. Omnishambles, Acang

ODO - omnishambles, n.: “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”

OED - acang, v.: "to act foolishly, lose self-control"
1200 (St. Katherine manuscript) “Hu nu, dame, dotestu? Cwen, acangestu nu mid alle þes oðre?”

3. Selfie, Dap

ODO - selfie, n.: “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

OED - dap, n.: "likeness, image"
1746 (Exmoor Scolding) “Tha hast tha very Daps o' thy old muxy Ont Sybyl.”

4. Food Baby, Gutling

ODO - food baby, n.: “a protruding stomach caused by eating a large quantity of food and supposedly resembling that of a woman in the early stages of pregnancy.”

OED - gutling, n.: “a great eater, a glutton”
1632 (Robert Sanderson sermon) “The Poets..made themselues bitterly merry with descanting vpon..the fatte paunches of these lasie gutlings.”

5. A/W, M.B.

ODO - A/W, abbrev.: “autumn/winter (denoting or relating to fashion designed for the autumn and winter seasons of a particular year).”

OED - M.B., n.: Initialism for “Mark of the Beast,” used in “M.B. waistcoat”
1874 (W.E. Gladstone) “[The undivided clerical waistcoat] was deemed so distinctly Popish, that it acquired the nickname of ‘The Mark of the Beast’; and..among the tailors..was familiarly known as ‘the M.B. waistcoat’.”

6. Fauxhawk, Bullhead

ODO - fauxhawk, n.: “a hairstyle in which a section of hair running from the front to the back of the head stands erect, intended to resemble a Mohican haircut (in which the sides of the head are shaved).”

OED - bullhead, n.: “a mass of curled or frizzled hair worn over the forehead”
1672 (Andrew Marvell) “To trick up the good old Bishop in a yellow Coif and a Bulls-head, that he may..appear in Fashion.”

7. Grats, Sdeign

ODO - grats, pl. n.: “congratulations”

OED - sdeign, v.: "Shortening of disdain"
1590 (Faerie Queene) “They sdeigned such lasciuious disport.”

8. Hackerspace, Anythingarian

ODO - hackerspace, n.: “a place in which people with an interest in computing or technology can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.”

OED - anythingarian, n.: “One who professes no creed in particular; an indifferentist.”
1704 (Thomas Brown) “Such bifarious anythingarians, that always make their interest the standard of their religion.”

9. Geek Chic, Sheepsy-Wolvesy

ODO - geek chic, n.: “the dress, appearance, and culture associated with computing and technology enthusiasts, regarded as stylish or fashionable.”

OED - sheepsy-wolvesy, adj.: “wolves in sheep’s clothing”
1657 (Jeffry Watts) “Linsie woolsie, sheepsie woolvsie prophets.”

10. Cake Pop, Flip-Flap

ODO - cake pop, n.: “a small round piece of cake coated with icing or chocolate and fixed on the end of a stick so as to resemble a lollipop.”

OED - flip-flap, n.: “a kind of tea cake.”
1876 (The Golden Butterfly) “As we sat over her dough-nuts and flipflaps.”

11. Squee, 'catso

ODO - squee, exclam. & v. & n.: “(used to express) great delight or excitement.”

OED - ‘catso, int.: an interjection akin to “what! Gods me!” from Italian cazzo the “membrum virile.”
1708 (Motteux’s translation of Rabelais) “Cat-so! let us..drink.”

12. Srsly, 'Cavy

ODO - srsly, adv.: “short for ‘seriously’.”

OED - ‘cavy, n. & adj.: short for “cavalier.”
1650 (Mutatus Polemo) “The Cavies being at that time ready to turn anything, except Roundhead, for some money to be chirpingly drunk.”

13. Babymoon, Chop-loge

ODO - babymoon, n.: “a relaxing or romantic holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born; a period of time following the birth of a baby during which the new parents can focus on establishing a bond with their child.”

OED - chop-loge, n.: short for chop-logic, one who chops logic, “a contentious, sophistical arguer”
1542 (Udall’s translation of Erasmus) “He..with lacke of vitailles brought those chop-logues or greate pratlers as lowe as dogge to the bow.”

14. Balayage, Frizilation

ODO - balayage, n.: “a technique for highlighting hair in which the dye is painted on in such a way as to create a graduated, natural-looking effect.”

OED - frizilation, n.: the act of frizzling the hair
1567 “Her chief and comon exercise..was, to force a frizilacion of her haire.”

15. Buzzworthy, Coleworts

ODO - buzzworthy, adj.: “likely to arouse the interest and attention of the public, either by media coverage or word of mouth.”

OED - coleworts, n.: old news. Literally, a cabbage-like plant. From the proverb for “old news,” “coleworts twice sodden.”
1644 (Chirologia) “It being better sometimes to use a licentious and unwarrantable motion, then alwayes to obtrude the same Coleworts.”

16. Unlike, Unlike

ODO - unlike, v.: “withdraw one’s liking or approval of (a web page or posting on a social media website that one has previously liked).”

OED - unlike, v.: “to give up liking; to cease to like”
1761 (Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph) “My heart is not in a disposition to love... I cannot compel it to like, and unlike, and like anew at pleasure.”

Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.


Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”


Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.


In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”


Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”


More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”


The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”


The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.


Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.


During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”


In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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