The Art of Lost Words contemplates death by dictionaries at Plymouth Peninsula Art Gallery

By Ben Miller | 17 March 2011
A photo of an open book
Lizzie Ridout, Skirr. Limited edition artist book
Exhibition: The Art of Lost Words, Peninsula Arts Gallery, Plymouth, March 19 – April 28 2011

Every year, as the appeal might go, certain words are placed at risk of being made extinct by the publishing powers that be.

Conducted by those deadly editors of the Collins Dictionary, the annual words review is a measure unafraid to scythe the list it surveys, replacing vernacular which has fallen out of use with shinier, more popular additions to our language.

A photo of a typographic design for the word ipsographic
Helen Ingham, Ipsographic. Framed letterpress print
What happens to these forgotten words? A diverse huddle of book and typographic designers and illustrators have converged upon the University of Plymouth to try and interpret some of the victims in the gallows, from “inergetical” (knackered) to “caliginosity” (darkness) and “skirr” (a bit like whirr, but faster) through letterpress, silkscreen, laser-cut objects, photography, books and animations.

The show is particularly resonant to Plymouth as it includes the institution’s Lizzie Ridout, a Graphic Communication lecturer who has jointly co-ordinated a one-day symposium accompanying the project. All those dictionary decommissionings may not have been in vain.

  • Open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm (Saturday 11am-4pm). Admission free. Symposium runs April 5 2011, visit for details.
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