By Veronica Helen Hart
The title word, absquatulate, showed up in a historical fiction I was reviewing. The word stopped me cold. My first thought was a misspelling, the second that someone’s finger got tangled up on the keyboard, and the third, maybe it’s a real word that I never heard of. I looked it up on Google:
Absquatulate, a deeply silly word that means to make off with something or someone.
Why say a thief ran away with your money when it’s much more fun to say he absquatulated with it?
The word absquatulate came out of an odd fad in America in the 1830s for making playful words that sounded vaguely Latin. Bloviate (speak pompously) and discombobulate (make confused) are two other pseudo-Latin coinages from that era. Absquatulate takes the word squat and adds the prefix ab-“off, away” and the verb ending-ulate to suggest getting up and leaving quickly. It’s hardly ever used nowadays, mostly showing up as an example of an absurd word.”
I even looked it up in my normal home dictionary and did not find it, which is the point of this blog. When writing historical fiction, it may be fun to use old-fashioned, out of fashion, obscure words, however, they ought to be decipherable when viewed in context.
It’s fun to try to write dialogue that matches your time period, “Whilst I await your response, kind sir,…”
How about dastardly? I find that a fun word, which certainly works in a historical setting.
Twenty-three skidoo, fits well in the roaring-twenties and we know what it means.
By the way, absquatulate was used incorrectly in the story I was reading. The character simply left; he did not run off with anything.
Here are a few more obscure words to enhance your vocabulary: skirr, epicaricacy, acapnotic, alamode (probably not what you’re thinking), laciniate, lugehovey.
Veronica Helen Hart
Writing about Historical, Humorous, Adventurous, and always Strong, Women