The Suetude Society: for Useful and Positive Words

by HRM on February 22, 2012

Interview with Topher Dawson
Map of the North of Scotland from 1805

Map of the North of Scotland from 1805

Topher Dawson

Topher seated by boat

I became an honourary member of the Suetude Society on a fortuitous, albeit slightly random, trip to Scotland. A week before leaving, I activated my dormant CouchSurfing account: it was through this that I met the Secretary and founding member of the Society: Topher Dawson, and his lovely family.

The Suetude Society has its headquarters in Ullapool, a town of 1300 people nestled in the lochs and rugged mountains of the Scottish Highlands. The Society was started by Topher and his friend Alan Bush. Topher is a boat-builder, Alan a weaver. Both like “playing with words,” explains Topher, and they founded the Society because “the idea of rehabilitating neglected words or habilitating new ones” appealed to them.

Here, Topher Dawson explains what the Suetude Society is, discusses the “democratic view that a language belongs to its speakers,” and tells you how to become a member of this in/advertently esoteric society.

– Harriet Alida Lye




“Desuetude means disuse or obsolescence, and by discarding the negative prefix de- we came up with suetude, a state of busy usefulness, which is our vision for all the old, new, or new/old words in our list. What I like about the words is that many, having cast off the negative baggage of their prefix, become short, positive and happy. I offer ceitful, dain, ept and dolent as examples.

It runs out that some words are actually archaic words brought back from the brink, like maculate (spotty), nocuous (from noxious), advertent.


Some are what the Chambers Dictionary call “facetious back formations” which don’t really exist but which we would like to introduce. There are two possible views of what are “proper” words; one is that they are not admissible to the language until some authority decides so, and the democratic view that a language belongs to its speakers. I think that any speaker should be able, consciously or unconsciously, to coin or habilitate a word, nurse it through its childhood, and launch it as a full citizen in the world of words.

Alan has a more radical view and has put forward words like ciple, one who does not have a guru, and miss, which already has a meaning. My particular favourites are podean (from antipodean meaning one who lives on the opposite side of the globe) (Alan being only 10 miles away is a podean of mine), and lexic.


Members of the Society are, we hope, lexic, norant, mented, ebriated and cadent. Our noble enterprise is nominious, petuous, ruly and astrous. We seek to bunk the idea that ordinary people can mantle words, and pute with each other over the admission of words to the list.

There is no formal list of members but I would guess about 20 people have contributed to our current list.

Any further candidate words which readers may wish to surrect will be accepted with tagonistic paragement.”


All photos by photo by Harriet Alida Lye

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