English Words That Are Becoming Archaic and Words That Are Not

Below we will look at 5 words in modern English, where some are rare, even near archaic, while others are not. They are:

1.       Mustnít

2.       Mustíve

3.       Neednít

4.       Aloud

5.       Must

We can examine each one and look at its meaning, and then see what has replaced it.  As an aside comment, no dictionaries have caught up with this trend in English yet.

The word mustnít has been replaced with shouldnít.  Just think of the last time youíve used mustnít (which may be never) and put in shouldnít and youíll immediately recognize that shouldnít is familiar and common.  Iíve only heard mustnít in movies dating back to the 30s, 40s and perhaps 50s.  But by the 1960s the use of this contraction for must not was rare.  Oddly enough, the phrase must not is a common phrase for the directions on manufactured products.  Take a look at a bottle of pills, or instructions for assembly of a manufactured items and you will find it.  The words mustnít and shouldnít are close in their lexical definitions, but slightly different. The former is prescriptive while the latter is normative.  This explains why must not is used to tell consumers the proper way to handle manufactured products.  The word shouldnít indicates what is right to do.  It thus deals with issues of what ought to be. By the way, ought is a close cognate of should.  Why was there a gradual move away from using mustnít to shouldnít in English colloquial usage?  It appears that mustnít is a somewhat more difficult to pronounce that shouldnít.  Of course, thatís a purely subjective remark on my part.  It does help though, to note that mustnít has two nasalizations in succession, e.g. the and nít sounds, and making those sounds with your mouth is a more complex maneuver than the other word Whatever the reason for its falling into disuse, mustnít is not used in common speech at all today.

The word mustíve is not rare or archaic. Iíve used in speech routinely and so have you. For example, take the following sentence:

Why didnít I get my notice of renewal?  Sir, our renewal department mustíve forgotten to schedule your renewal plan.

You hear mustíve all the time, but not its negative cognate mustnít very much at all.  This is odd, but not surprising.  You see, shouldíve is not as closely related to mustíve as the pair/ shouldnít/mustnít.  The verbal tense mustíve is no longer an imperative in colloquial speech.  It has become a subjunctive in effect.  It means what might be possible.  While mustnít remains imperative.  This can explain why it is being displaced by the normative shouldnít.  This may be due to cultural changes over time with the way English-speaking people interact in speech.  The tendency to shy away from telling others what they must do as opposed to telling them what they should do might play into why one word is displacing the other.  Whatever may be the case, mustnít is on its last legs.  Think of it, when is the last time anyone said mustnít to you in a conversation?

Neednít is being replaced by Donít have to in modern English parlance.  Yes, we still hear Neednít occasionally.  You might hear it, perhaps in speech or in formal settings like classroom instruction.  It is much more likely that you will respond with Donít have to if you asked are the following question:

Would you like me to send you an email copy of this refund we will process to your account?

No, you donít have to.

Now, you could have said: No, you neednít do that.  Since contractions are synchronic simplifications of speech in language you mostly likely would never have said: No, you need not do that.

The decline of the use of neednít is becoming true even in the world of British English speakers, from my experience conversing with British speakers.  The reasons why?  Again I can speculate that word is composed of two nasalized consonants and seems much more difficult to enunciate than the phrase: Donít have to.  This is no linguistic explanation I admit and donít claim to know really why poor little neednít is evanescing, but it is.


And now our penultimate candidate for extinction: aloud.  This word is being replaced by the phrase out loud.  We all know the ubiquitous LoL in text speech on cell phones.  Yet, I believe the replacement of this word with out loud, began well before the invention of the cell phone.  The terms are synonymous for sure.  They mean the same thing.  Interestingly, aloud requires less linguistic effort to enunciate than out loud. One phonetic sound as opposed to two, so why would one replace the other?  I believe development of the use of the word out as a catch phrase for many expressions is why.  We have phrases like get out, knock out, way out, get outta here, outta this worldÖand so on.  It was a natural step that out loud emerged and thus supplanted aloud.

 The use of Must as an intensifier, not an imperative has also become common in spoken English.† For example take the sentence below:

You must know this kind of profanity is not permitted at this company, either on the phone on in speech?

Here the word must is not being used as a command to the listener.† Though, it has an element of compelling the listener, it really is stressing a point.† The use of must to intensify an idea, point, or thought is quite common now.† This is much like the use of the verb love to do the same thing.† Here are examples youíll recognize:

I MUST see this movie, now that youíve told me about it.

This is a must see!

I just love nut crunch ice cream.

We must begin to cope with our lack of concern about water pollution.

The last one may, again seem like an imperative but actually, skirts the line between the two uses.† It could go either way.

There you have it, my take on our beautiful evolving language.

Ken Wais