Words you didn’t know you needed

Kindlifresserbrunnen by Andrew BossiI’m a word nerd.

I love bang up to the elephant articles about weird words to add to my vocabulary, like this list of slang from the Victorian Era, and collections of obscure words. One of my favourites of the latter is The Phrontistery with its Compendium of Lost Words.

Feel free to share your favourites in the comments – I’ll be forever grateful!

I have beguiled many a happy hour reading through the Compendium. I could try and justify it by saying it’s research for writing historical fiction, but that would be entirely disingenuous. I just love words.

It has occurred to me, though that there are no words for things that should have words for them, and other words out there which can hardly come up much in conversation. One of the latter, courtesy of The Phrontistery, is brephophagist. Try and recall, if you’d be so kind as to indulge me for a moment, the last time you needed a word for “someone who eats babies”.

Never, I thought (or, at least, I hoped.)

And now, to prove me wrong, a good friend reminded me of the fascinating collection of online oddities at Atlas Obscura, and whilst taking a circuitous route through its treasures, I stumbled upon the Child-Eater of Bern.  (That’s him caught in the act in the cropped header image, photographed by Andrew Bossi, available in creative commons on Wikipedia. See the full image at the linked sites.)

The good folk of Bern refer to the subject of the horrific sculpture that tops their fountain as a Kindlifresser – a child eater, or brephophagist. He’s been there since 1546 and, for all I know, it may have been all the rage in Europe during the 16th Century to decorate one’s town with such things. Suddenly, I can imagine the word ‘brephophagist’ arising quite naturally in all manner of conversations.

That’s my disturbing thought for the day.

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