This Guy Tried to Invent a New English Language—and The Result Was a Lot of Weird Words

This man tried to make english...englisher.

FEA-Stuff-About-Words_US170902BJamie Chung for reader’s Digest (photograph) and Joel Holland for reader’s digest (hand lettering)

In the 1800s, William Barnes, a poet and minister, tested an unusual question: What would the English language look like if it were stripped of all Greek and Latin root words? (These are uncommon English words we don’t use, but should be.)

This new language, Barnes thought, would make more sense to speakers who lacked a classical education. For example, instead of the word photograph (from the Greek words meaning “light” and “writing”), we would say sunprint. Some of the entries in Barnes’s proposed “pure English” dictionary make perfect sense. Others produce chuckles and need some translating:

FEA-Stuff-About-Words_US170902BJamie Chung for reader’s Digest (photograph) and Joel Holland for reader’s digest (hand lettering)

◗ ayesome = affirmative
◗ folkdom = democracy
◗ inwit = conscience
◗ muchness = quantity
◗ naysome = negative
◗ overthwartings = opposites
◗ suchness = quality
◗ sundersome = divisible
◗ thwartsome = contrary
◗ unfrienden = alienate
◗ word-book = dictionary
◗ wortlore = botany
◗ year-day = anniversary

Try using these grammar rules every day to make you sound smarter.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.