Boughten and other Archaic Words

One of my beta-readers flagged the adjective “boughten,” in Imperial Magic. Did I mean store-bought? Well, sort of. Boughten is the simplified adjective form of the past participle of “to buy.” Since so many goods were made at home, something that was often made domestically but had been purchased (in this case a soft toy doll) was “boughten.” Rot – rotten. Bought – boughten. It had the connotation of being something unusual or at least different, because someone purchased the item instead of making it. My maternal grandparents used the word, and I have read it in older works of fiction and non-fiction. But in every-day conversation? No.

Those of us who grew up with the King James Bible are familiar with the phrase “graven image,” meaning an idol thou shall not make. “Clean-shaven” is another usage in a phrase.  -en forms were more common in the past (to shrive, “shriven and blessed” is another now-archaic usage).

I like old words that can fill a precise niche. I have been complimented for proper usage of “throve.” The past perfect form of “to thrive.” Most people would say “thrived,” but I needed the sense that throve provided. I don’t go so far as to use “holpen” for “helped,” but I’ve been tempted on occasion. (Hilf-half-geholfen in German became help-halp-holpen in English.) The only place most people will ever see “holpen” is in the Magnificat in the King James translation, ‘for He hath holpen His people Israel,” or in some very old Christmas and Advent songs. “Holpen are all folk on Earth/Born is God’s son so dear.” (From “Nowell Nowell Nowell”)

I admit to occasionally having the urge to “speak King James” at my students on occasion, and I might have cautioned that several were at risk of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth and being thrown into the outer darkness” unless studiousness resumed.

So I considered the suggestion, and kept boughten. Poppet was already archaic, as well as accurate. “Doll” did not come into common usage for a toy until the late 1800s.


15 thoughts on “Boughten and other Archaic Words

  1. Oft times better to be specific, in connotation and context, in hopes of framing a scene well. That was a deft bit of poetic use, and quite appropriate. I am delayed in writing a review, composite of work to do and an injury. One hand cannot a keyboard encompasseth, nor select, move, and edit.

    Unfortunately, our vernacular involves four interchanged (non-transitive) interjections, obscenities, and complete ignorance of volume as a measured quantity (in bels, not dB). I prefer language like whiskey: aged a.bit, exotic tones, and a Scots or Irish overlay.

    Note I did not overly invoke Islay, but if the mash still fits, share by all means. (BTW, in case of carpapult, I have arranged for additional felines to be partaken with the piscatory feast :))

    • My sympathies on the hand. I have a combination of carpel tunnel and elbow tendonitis, and there are days when the left hand and arm do not play well together.

  2. I like to see a wide vocabulary well used – so many people, even writers, use a smaller and smaller range of words and grammar forms these day. It reminds me of a book I read a few years ago where a British sea captain poetically tells of his hijacker and the hijacker responds “I love the British – an American would have just used 4 letter words” (paraphrased, from memory).

  3. I love the old forms, and have been known to rant when someone uses “lighted” for “lit”, “kneeled” for “knelt”, “slayed” for “slew”, “pleaded” for “pled”, or “burned” for “burnt”.

    But there is an exception where I prefer the newer form, and that is replacing the awkward “dived” with the elegant “dove”.

    • “Slayed” sounds terribly wrong. Especially if you grow up where “to sleigh” and “We sleighed” or “He saddle-sleighed home a fresh-killed deer,” (Buck Ramsey “Christmas Waltz”) are used every year.

  4. Always ‘fun’ trying for a ‘period correct’ word… Sigh… Dreading the responses when I get the Western done, because I’m doing the same thing. Engrish is significantly different today than it was 140 years ago… 🙂

    • There was a division manager on the XIT who wrote partly in Gaelic and who used numbers from the 1700s (the half 8 for a 4, among other things.)

    • I’m currently rereading Churchill’s “Memoirs of the Second World War” and while there are some US vs. Brit differences, the language Churchill uses just feels different from either recent US or British prose. Darn compelling, though – I guess there’s reasons they gave him a Nobel Prize in Literature.

  5. I occasionally use “store-boughten”, typically in reference to software or equipment that I might otherwise have created, had I not gotten lazy.
    Not sure whether I picked up the expression from Pogo or from my father and/or grandfather.

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