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Is “Oldfangled” Actually a Word?

The Answer


So, have you ever heard someone use the term “oldfangled”? It sounds like the direct opposite of “newfangled,” right? I must admit, when I first came across the term, a part of me thought it was a playful concoction—a whimsical mirror to its more popular counterpart. Let’s delve into whether “oldfangled” is genuinely a recognized word in the English language, or if it’s just a quirky invention.

Firstly, “newfangled” is a word we’re all pretty familiar with. It refers to something that is different, recent, or novel—often with the implication that this new thing is overly complex or unnecessary. The term originates from the Middle English “newefangel,” meaning ‘eager for novelties,’ or from “fangel,” which means to take.

But what about “oldfangled”? Does it exist by virtue of linguistic symmetry? It turns out, “oldfangled” does exist in dictionaries, though it is marked as rare or obsolete. The word is used to describe something that is fashioned in an old style, or is old-fashioned. However, it hasn’t enjoyed the widespread usage or popularity of “newfangled.”

In fact, the use of “oldfangled” is so infrequent that it might raise eyebrows or even draw chuckles when used in conversation. It’s one of those words that, despite being perfectly legitimate, has slipped into the shadows of linguistic oddities, overshadowed by its newer sibling.

Historical Glimpse

Looking into the historical usage of “oldfangled,” we find that it made appearances in literature and texts a few centuries ago. However, it never quite stuck in the common vernacular the way “newfangled” did. This disparity could be due to the human fascination with novelty. We have numerous words to describe new things (novel, modern, current) but comparatively fewer to describe the outdated, which might explain the survival of “newfangled” over “oldfangled.”

Cultural Reflections

This preference for the new mirrors our cultural obsession with innovation and the latest technology. Perhaps in a world where the latest model of a smartphone becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, the idea of being “old-fashioned” isn’t as charming as being ahead of the curve.

A Place for “Oldfangled”

Could “oldfangled” make a comeback? In an era where vintage and retro are gaining popularity, perhaps there’s a niche for “oldfangled” after all. It has a quaint ring to it, evoking images of things made with traditional methods, or ideas that have stood the test of time.

What’s Up With the Word?

So, how often do you think a word needs to be used to be considered “alive”? “Oldfangled,” while recognized by dictionaries, certainly challenges the idea of what makes a word commonly acceptable. It exists, yes, but if a word falls in the forest of language and no one is around to say it, does it make a sound? Maybe it’s time we give “oldfangled” a little love.

Even if it is about the old…

My neighbour once jokingly asked, “If everything old is new again, does that make ‘oldfangled’ newfangled?” This playful query points to the cyclical nature of trends and ideas. Just as fashion revives styles from decades past, perhaps language too can see the resurgence of words like “oldfangled.”

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Bonus Biscuit: What's up with newfangled?

Did you know that “newfangled” itself dates back to the 15th century? It has been used to criticize innovations and inventions, often humorously implying that they are unnecessary complications. This enduring term has seen various waves of popularity, reflecting society’s ever-changing attitudes towards technology and progress.