Ken – a noun meaning – one’s range of knowledge or sight; awareness, perception, vision, understanding…being within one’s grasp. Comprehension, realization, appreciation, consciousness – to put it simply – it’s what you know.
It’s a word you don’t hear much, but when you do your ears swing open like stadium doors since three little letters say so much. “What you mean is beyond my ken, can you simplify it for me?”
Ken is considered what is known as a fossil word meaning, an artifact from a different era not used very often yet still has its place of honor in the English language in what’s called, isolated usage.
In other words – we don’t use it anymore. Here are a few compiled by Mark Nicol.
Ado: bother over unimportant details (“without further ado” or, more rarely, “much ado about nothing”)
Amok (or amuck): in an uncontrolled manner (“run amok”)
Batten: a strip of wood used for clamping the boards of a door. strengthen or fasten (something) with batten (“batten down the hatches”)
Dint: force or power (“by (sheer) dint of”)
Dudgeon: indignation (“high dudgeon”)
Eke: accomplish or get with difficulty (“eke out”)
Fettle: state of health or fitness (“in fine fettle”)
Fro: away or back (“to and fro”)
Hale: sound or very healthy (“hale and hearty”)
Hither: near or adjacent, or to this place (“hither and yon”)
Immemorial: before memory or tradition (“time immemorial”)
Jetsam: what is cast overboard from a ship (“flotsam and jetsam”) — distinguished from flotsam, a word denoting what floats from the wreckage of a ship (that term is used)
Kith: friends, neighbors, or relatives (“kith and kin”)
Loggerhead: blockhead (“at loggerheads,” meaning blocked, or stalled, by stubbornness); also, a type of turtle.
Vim: energy; enthusiasm: (“in his youth he was full of vim and vigor”)
If you love words as much as I do, your ears must be flapping like Dumbo’s. I learned to read the dictionary from Bill Hicks who, when bored, would peruse it like a great novel.
Where would we be without them. It’s how we communicate, and whether they’re in style or not, the more we know, the sharper our ken will be.