A Word Please

images-1 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”)

Deserts: excellence or worth, or what is deserved or merited (“just deserts”)

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.




About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
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63 Responses to A Word Please

  1. Ann Koplow says:

    The word “ken” is used in the song “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from The Sound of Music. Since I listened to a lot of musicals when I was a kid, this word has not been beyond my ken. Thanks for a great post!


  2. Monique says:

    Interesting read 👍


  3. skinnyuz2b says:

    I must be from the stone age, or just the back woods of northern NY. We still use most of the words on your list! When reading a novel with a setting in Scotland, the word ‘ken’ appears quite often. I wonder if that’s where it originated.


  4. Elle Knowles says:

    Reblogged this on Finding Myself Through Writing and commented:
    Words…we all use them, but do we use them correctly? And what about those words that have slipped from our grasp, not being used because we don’t even know the meaning, much less how to use it in a sentence? Here are some fun ones to grasp on to today. Thanks Susannah for the grammar lesson!


  5. Wordsmith: a person who works with words; especially : a skillful writer. aka-Susannah Bianchi. R.I.P.: Percy Sledge “When a Man Loves a Woman,”


  6. Pingback: A Word Please | Finding Myself Through Writing

  7. Ally Bean says:

    These words remind me of being a child and listening to my older relatives talk. Words from a different time, definitely. Must remember to use them when I speak and write, just to see how people react to them. [I make my own fun.]


  8. Interesting post on one of our favorite games. Short word with many points makes for a thrill.


  9. micklively says:

    Ken is particularly popular in Scotland. I don’t claim to know why.
    I studied German as a kid: “kennen” is their verb to know.
    It’s a good list. I’d have to add “conjugals”, “imbibe” and “thanatoid”.


  10. Do you find that lyrics to songs are a form of poetry (beautiful writing) ? Link to the song Percy wrote. True story – his girlfriend was an aspiring model that let him for his best friend. He sat down and wrote this. It takes a broken heart to write a good love song .http://www.metrolyrics.com/when-a-man-loves-a-woman-lyrics-percy-sledge.html


  11. Oh my, my age is showing – I’m using way too many of these! Thanks for the reminder on those I’d forgotten and the new intros – will be trying to fit both kith and ken into conversations in the near future!


  12. Great post! I know them all! And sometimes even use them. The one I have used most (or hear most) is “Immemorial” which I actually used when I wrote my wedding ceremony, but that was 18 years ago, so maybe it is part of that long ago, far away time when words such as these were not beyond my ken. 🙂


    • I just read a book called Bully Father about Teddy Roosevelt and his children. At the end of her 100 page or so essay, she printed letters he wrote to them and it was the first time I ever saw the word immemorial. I got so excited 🙂


  13. Now I have to tell my brother Ken that his knowledge is beyond me.


  14. MJ says:

    Yikes! Seeing all these words that are considered “fossils” makes me feel like a relic from the Age of Victoria, despite having been born 10 miles from NYC more than half a century after her demise! But everyone around me—parents, grandparents, neighbors—regularly used the words and phrases here. Although there were no exhortations to “hasten forward” a la TR, the crones at the parochial dungeon I attended said quaint things like “commit to memory”, “take a cipher”, and “it would behoove you ”. Aside from Liesl singing about things beyond her ken in “The Sound of Music”, there was my mother singing “Do you ken John Peel” while she was getting breakfast ready:
    “Do you ken John Peel with his coat so gay?
    Do you ken John Peel at the break of day?
    Do you ken John PEEEEEEEEL when he’s far away
    With his hounds and his horn in the morning?”
    If my father joined in on “Peel’s HalOOOOO could wake the dead”, my dog Musket would start baying, and the impromptu concert would end in Sssh’s. Thanks for jogging a fond memory, Susannah!


  15. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I love these fossil words. I try to work them into conversation to give them a second life. 😉 I’m using ken tomorrow.


  16. I loved this piece! I have always adored the word Hither, it just makes me chuckle. There is something humorous about hearing “come hither”. It’s probably just me..lol.
    I was on a class trip with my son when he was in first grade and one of the other mothers, who was possessive to the 100th power, was so aggravated that the boys were running all over she turned to me and said “Ugh, look at them running amok like animals!” They were 6 and we were at a playground….she was so weird….haha! Thanks for the flashback.


    • Jane Austen used thither often. In You Got Mail, Nora Ephron said thither and hither…or at least one of them when she was saying to the Tom Hanks character through Meg Ryan Pride & Prejudice was her favorite book. That’s a great little film if you’ve never seen it.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. TheLastWord says:

    Time immemorial is a much used speech term found in Indian English. And SoM definitely used “ken” in the song “16 going on 17”.

    I’ve famously missed a “come hither” look, I must write up that story some day. I’ve used most of the words, but enough of my litany of laments, I’m an old fossil now, they tell me.


  18. TheLastWord says:

    oh – yes, another one. Vagaries.


  19. These are some great words, Susannah. I love words like this, although in speaking they’re usually useless, since most people don’t know what they mean. We need to resurrect some of these fossils though.


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