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14 Old Abstract Nouns We Need to Bring Back

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English has a few suffixes that can make abstract nouns out of adjectives. There’s the relatively rare –cy, which turns fluent into fluency and idiot into idiocy, and there’s the more common –ty or –ity that gives us certainty, subtlety, absurdity and the like. The only one that is truly productive however, able to make a noun out of almost anything in English, is –ness. We can talk about hunky-doryness, pumped-upness or even lolwhutness without too much awkwardness. In the past couple of decades the –ty ending has acquired a certain amount of productivity in words like bogosity or awesomosity, but the productive use of ty has a more humorous effect than –ness, which has to do with the fact that –ty comes to English through Latin and French influence and carries overtones of, shall we say, pretentiosity, ostentatiosity, and ridiculosity.

These –ty coinages have a slangy, modern ring to them but English speakers have actually been trying to make –ty happen for centuries. There are a number of old abstract nouns in the Oxford English Dictionary that, for whatever reason, and tragically, became obsolete. Here are 14 of them we need to bring back.

1. Debonairity: Old French had debonaireté and English took it to make debonairity. Why we ever lost this one, I cannot say.

2. Earnesty: used a bit in the 16th century for earnestness.

3. Enviousty: The OED gives only one example from the 14th century. It might have done better as enviosity.

4. Fewty: An obsolete Scottish term for just what it says “the condition of being few.”

5. Fiercety: First citation 1382, and while fierceness had an edge from the beginning, fiercety continued to show up occasionally in examples like “The Northyn wynde blewe with suche fyerste” (1513).

6. Graciosity: From the French gracieuseté. Graciousness is nice, but graciosity is nicer.

7. Heavity: We’ve got levity, so why not heavity? Chaucer liked it.

8. Nervosity: It certainly sounds more nervous than nervousness. This one was used more in the sense of neuroticism. In the words of psychologist Willam James (1890), “There is no real evidence that physical refinement and nervosity tend to accumulate from generation to generation in aristocratic or intellectual families.”

9. Outrageousty: So much more outrageous than outrageousness. Too bad it fell out of use after the 15th century.

10. Rigorosity: Is your English department known for its rigorosity? Then they should be familiar with this word.

11. Rudity: All the better to rhyme with crudity. Use this one to poetify your rants.

12. Seemlity: You already sound a bit fancy if you use the word seemliness. Just imagine how much fancier you’ll sound if you use seemlity instead.

13. Seriosity: You can use this one in all seriosity … but people might laugh.

14. Terribility: Terribleness is a pretty bad quality to have, but terribility? That’s terrifying.

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How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain
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From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

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9 Grammatically Correct Gifts for Language Lovers
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Have a friend or relative who's quick to correct your typos? Give them a gift that celebrates their love of (grammatically correct) language.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of sales. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck gift hunting!

1. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE ILLUSTRATED; $12

William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White's extensive—and sometimes snarky—guide to grammar was published in 1920, but it's still considered a go-to for writing purists who are wary of change. The bookshelf staple, with a foreword by Roger Angell and updated with 57 colorful illustrations by Maira Kalman, is sure to offer up hours of education (which is entertainment to the language lover in your life).

Find It: Amazon

2. PENCILS; $9

These pencils will help keep common homophones straight. The retro sets of five are decorated with gold foil letters hand-pressed onto the sides. The Etsy store also offers up a set of red pencils that feature short, grammar-positive statements.

Find It: Etsy

3. QUOTE EARRINGS; $9

High marks: The delicate metal earrings are about a half-inch tall, making them a subtle but charming choice for any punctuation lover.

Find It: ModCloth

4. *YOU'RE NECKLACE; $24 AND UP

*You're necklace
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The pendant, which comes in the material of your choice, is dedicated to a well-known pet peeve amongst the literate.

Find It: Etsy

5. PUNCTUATION POSTER; $36

Everyone knows about the question mark and the semicolon, but what about the interrobang? This simple poster, available in three different sizes and 60 different colors, celebrates the punctuation that really helps writers get their point across. It's printed on satin luster paper with ChromaLife 100 inks, creating a long-lasting piece of artwork.

Find It: Etsy

6. SHADY CHARACTERS; $12

Keith Houston's book offers up a thorough look at the history of the written word. Readers can learn about the rich stories behind punctuation marks, including tales that cover everything from Ancient Roman graffiti to George W. Bush.

Find It: Amazon

7. AMPERSAND MARQUEE; $19

The ampersand is a divisive punctuation mark in writing, but it's widely loved in design; the attractive logogram can be found everywhere from wedding invitations to tattoos. This metal light stands at almost 10 inches, making it a nice statement piece in any home.

Find It: Amazon

8. POP CULTURE PARTS OF SPEECH; $29

Grammar is even more accessible with the help of beloved pop culture characters. ET, Robocop, Holly Golightly, Walter White, and more all come together to help teach tricky grammar terms. The poster is broken down into seven basic parts: nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions.

Find It: Pop Chart Lab

9. OWL SHIRT; $15

Do you have a friend who's always correcting everyone with a stern "whom"? With the help of two owls, this shirt pokes light fun at two counterparts to the oft-neglected word. The lightweight, cotton shirt comes in a classic white with sizes for men, women, and children.

Find It: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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