The Inkhorns and the Nativists in Early Modern English

Inkhorn terms: so called because they seem to come from an ink bottle, not from an actual person's mouth, these words arise in part as an attempt to create an instant vocabulary so that English can function on the world stage, competing with the established Euro languages like Italian, French, and Latin.  These ornate terms are creative, imitative, ambitious, and generally unsuccessful.

from Thos. Wilson, Art of Rhetoric, 1553, and possibly composed by Wilson himself:

Ponderyng expendyng [‘weighing’], and reuolutyng [‘revolving’] with my self your ingent [‘enormous’] affabilitee, and ingenious capacitee, for mundane affaires: I cannot but celebrate and extolle your magnificall dexteritee, aboue all other.  For how could you haue adepted [‘acquired’] suche illustrate prerogatiue [‘illustrious pre-eminence’], and dominicall [‘lordly’] superioritee, if the fecunditee of your ingenie [‘intellectual powers’] had not been so fertile, and wounderfull pregnaunt.  Now therfore beeyng accersited [‘summoned’], to suche splendent renoume, and dignitee splendidious: I doubt not but you will adiuuate [‘help’] suche poore adnichilate [‘destitute’] orphanes, as whilome ware condisiples [‘schoolfellows’] with you, and of antique familiaritie in Lincolneshire. Emong whom I beeyng a Scholasticall panion [‘companion’], obtestate [‘beseech’] your sublimitee to extoll [‘raise’] myne infirmitee. There is a sacerdotall dignitee [‘ecclesiastical office’] in my natiue countrey, contiguate [‘adjoining’] to me, where I now contemplate:  whiche your worshipfull benignitee, could sone impetrate [‘obtain’] for me, if it would like you to extend your scedules [‘write letters’], and collaude [‘praise’] me in them to the right honorable lorde Chauncellor, or rather Archigrammacian [‘principal classical scholar’] of Englande. You knowe my literature [‘literary culture’], you knowe the pastorall promocion, I obtestate [‘beseech’] your clemencie, to inuigilate [‘take pains’] thus muche for me, accordyng to my confidence [‘as I rely on you to do’], and as you know my condigne merits, for such a compendious [‘profitable’] liuyng. But now I relinquishe [‘cease’] to fatigate [‘tire’] your intelligence with any more friuolous verbositie, and therefore he that rules the climates be euermore your beautreux [‘buttress’?], your fortresse, and your bulwarke. Amen.


Nativist terms:  proposed partly in reaction to inkhorn ornateness, but also out of a sense that English needed its own vocabulary, not a borrowed one, to function as the vehicle for scholarly and literary expression.  In fact, nativism produced words that were just as outlandish as the borrowed or coined inkhorn terms. Like the inkhorn terms, few nativist coinages caught on -- most were too bizarre.  But we still use nativisms like "foreword" and "handbook" to compete with "preface" and "manual."

from Ralph Lever, The Arte of Reason, Rightly Termed, Witcraft (1573):  Lever created an entire discourse on logic using native equivalents of logical terminology.  He did the same thing with grammar, which he called redecraft.

witcraft, ‘logic’
foreset, ‘subject’
backset, ‘predicate’
gaynset, ‘opposite, contrary’
shewsay, saying, ‘sentence’
naysay, ‘negation’
endsay, ‘conclusion’
foresay, ‘premise’
ifsay, ‘conditional proposition’
yeasay, ‘affirmation’
unwittie, ‘foolish, careless’
lykesounding words, ‘homonyms’
lykemeaning words, ‘synonyms’
saywhat, ‘conclusion’

Nathaniel Fairfax (1674), A treatise on the bulk and selvage of the world, a metaphysical Baconian study.  From the forespeech, or preface:

As for the way of wording it, I know aforehand, ‘tis not trim enough for these Gay days of ours; but dressing is none of my business.  When I look at things, I can afford to overlook words, and I had rather speak home than fair, nor do I care how blunt it be, so it be strong.... There is one thing which I may be blam’d for by many; and that is a kind of shiness all along of those borrowed words & gaynesses, that Englishmen have pickt and cull’d from other Tongues, under the name of Choyce words and Sparkling sayings.... Thinking with my self, how I an English man would write a Book in English tongue, I made it now and than a little of my care, to bring in so many words of that speech, that the Book might thence be call’d English, without mis-calling it.  And indeed however our smoother tongued Neighbours may put in a claim for those bewitcheries of speech that flow from Gloss and Chimingness; yet I verily believe that there is no tongue unver heaven, that goes beyond our English for speaking manly strong and full.  And if words be more to teach than tickle, as I reckon they are, our Mother tongue will get as much by speaking fit and after kind, as it can loose by faring rough and taking up the tongue to utter, and more than any else can gain, by kembing better and running glibber.

Fairfax advises his readers,

either to fetch back some of our own words, that have been justled out in wrong that worse from elsewhere might be hoisted in, or else to call in from the fields and waters, shops and work-housen, from the inbred stock of more homely women and less filching Thorps-men, that well-fraught world of words that answers works, by which all Learners are taught to do, and not to make a Clatter.  And perhaps, if we slip this tide, we shall never come again at such a nicking one.

Some words that Fairfax uses:

abiding, ‘duration’
allfillingness, ‘immensity’
bodiless, ‘immaterial’
bow, ‘curvature’ — bow of the earth
cleavesome, ‘divisible’
dead-doing, ‘causing death’
everbeing, ‘eternal’
flowsom, ‘fluid’
fry, ‘offspring’
ghost, ‘to inspirit’
growthsome, ‘fertile’
half-thwart-line, ‘radius’
lightsom, ‘luminescent’
middlekin, ‘medium’
minglement, ‘mixture’
roomthy, ‘the spatial equivalent of timely’
scantling, ‘measurement’
shapling, ‘small form, embryo’
steamscope, ‘atmosphere’
suchness, ‘essence’
thingsomeness, ‘reality’
thinkfulness, ‘ability to think, intelligence’
throwfaresom, ‘penetrable’
unbeginningly, ‘eternal’
unbeholden, ‘independent’
uncouthness, ‘illogicality’
unsay, ‘deny’
whereness, ‘location’