Image: H. Armstrong Roberts / Retrofile RF / Getty Images
About This Quiz
Language has been the primary method of human communication throughout history. And as societies evolve and customs change, languages have been ever evolving and changing.
Many of today's languages originate from common roots, including Latin and Greek, but the words sometimes lose their meaning as they travel from language to language. Have you ever heard of the expression “lost in translation”? It’s accurate. Just consider John F. Kennedy, who once mistakenly proclaimed in a speech that he was a jelly donut. Many words that originated in one language come to mean something completely different once they’ve gathered nuances from people, regions and such.
The English language is complicated, but it’s also funny. There are some great words that, for whatever reason, are no longer used today (but totally should be). Imagine how astute you would seem if you referred to jewelry as “bijoux”? Or if you referred to a fashionable and daring young man as a “buck”? Wouldn’t that be swell?
And perhaps you do use these words! If you are a fan of the English language who claims to know the dandiest ol’ English words, test your knowledge of old-timey vocabulary with this quiz! Prove that you are the cat's pajamas.
If your reply to a question is “peradventure,” what are you basically saying?
“Peradventure” was the old word for today’s standard (and more simplified) “perhaps.” The literal Anglo-French meaning is "by chance."
The rivers along the trade trails go through the snowy range ere they lead to the plains of China. What does “ere” mean?
“Ere” basically stands for "before" (in time). Therefore, in this sentence, the trade trails go through the snowy range before they lead to the Chinese plains. It is a Middle English word coming from Old English, similar to a High German word, "er," for "earlier."
If someone's statement is “bunkum,” what is the problem?
There is no problem - it's genius.
It's extremely rude.
“Bunkum" simply means nonsense. This word was coined in 1820 and was originally spelled “buncombe,” because a congressman representing Buncombe County, North Carolina, bored his colleagues with an irrelevant political speech. Imagine that!
What is an old-fashioned word for where you lay your head to rest at night?
Back in the day, a bedroom was referred to as a bedchamber. In earlier centuries, depending on your social status, you might have slept on mattresses that were stuffed with hay and broom straws, or mattresses that were stuffed with feathers (if you could afford this pricey item).
The noun "smite" used to mean "a heavy blow." The verb "smite" is still used today, meaning "to strike with a heavy blow." One popular form of the verb can be rather poetic: if you are "smitten" with someone, you've been struck by love.
"Grimalkin," believe it or not, was a word used back in the late 16th century to refer to a cat. The term derives from the color grey and “malkin,” an archaic word with several meanings (including a cat or a woman named Matilda or Maud). In Shakespeare's "Macbeth," a witch mentions the name "Graymalkin."
A "kickshaw" referred to a fancy dish that did not make a satisfying meal. This word was used in the late 16th century and originates from the French phrase "quelque chose," which merely means "something."
If someone says an orison, they’re saying a prayer (and hopefully, praying for your well-being). It originates from Old French “oreison,” coming from the Latin word “oratio,” meaning "speech" or "oration."
If you were going to a “taiga,” where were you going?
A zoo to see a tiger
If you were heading over to a taiga, you were going to a forest of high latitudes (likely in the north). This word was used in the 19th century and originates from Russian and Mongolian. Taiga look at that!
“Zounds!,” said the officer. “How did this happen?” How was “zounds” used?
As an insult
To address a stranger
To address a colleague
To express surprise or indignation
If the officer said, “zounds,” he was expressing surprise or indignation at what he had just heard or seen. “Zounds” was a word first used in the late 16th century; it is a contraction of "God's wounds." Who knew?
You should be present at your wife's accouchement. What does “accouchement” mean?
“Accouchement” was the word used in the late 18th century for the process of giving birth. It originates from the French word "accoucher," which means to assist in delivery, and the Old French word “coucher,” which means to lay down or put to bed.
If someone is a "bibliopole," they have a lot of knowledge about what?
In the late 18th century, a bibliopole was someone who sold and purchased books, especially rare ones. It comes from a mix of Greek and Latin words that translate into "books" and "to sell" - hence, a bibliopole!
If you were a damsel, then you were popular with the young fellas! A young, unmarried woman was often referred to as a damsel - whether or not she was in distress. It originates from the Old French word “damisele,” which comes from the Latin word “domina,” or "mistress."
The dress was covered in fandangles. What does “fandangle” mean?
An interesting thing
A boring thing
A useless, ornamental thing
A fandangle was a useless or purely ornamental thing, at least in the mid 19th century. It is believed to have originated from the word "fandango," which is a lively Spanish dance performed by a man and a woman.
If you are an “otiose” person, what do you like doing?
Laying on the couch all day
If you are otiose, you are an indolent and idle person, at least in old-timey words. "Otiose" was a word used in the late 18th century that comes from the Latin word "otium," which translates into "leisure."