Some think that the obsolescing of words from the English language is a sorry indication of its constant decline. Not so, argues Jeffrey Kacirk, the author of this charming collection of quirky antiquated words and the stories behind them. "In fact," he writes in his introduction, "the richness and maturity of a language may be gauged by the volume and quality of words it can afford to lose." The wonderful sounds these forgotten words make--nimgimmer, tup-running, mocteroof, frubbish, grog-blossom, wayzgoose, galligaskin, sockdolager--are half the fun. Their fabulous meanings, particularly those that seem inevitable once you learn them, make up the rest. And as the history of the words unfolds, so does history itself. Among the many strange and outmoded folk Kacirk introduces are the bird-swindler, a 19th-century "purveyor of expensive, exotic-looking birds that, upon closer inspection, were found to be one of several common varieties of local birds that had been trimmed and dyed"; the eye-servant, "a devious domestic or other employee ... who was too lazy to efficiently perform duties except when 'within eyeshot' of his or her master"; the prickmedainty, a 16th-century "man-about-town who coifed himself in an overly careful manner, frequently seeking the services of his barber"; and the dog-flogger, "a minor church official ... whose duty it was to supervise and discipline the unruly canines that traditionally accompanied their owners to English church services."