One of the most fascinating and entertaining features of the English language is that it is in a constant state of change. As new things are created or discovered, someone, somewhere, comes up with a word to refer to it. For example, a side effect of male obesity is the growth of large, fleshy breasts that have been referred to as man boobs, or moobs. It’s perhaps something of a sign-of-the-times that we need such a word. Nevertheless, now we have ’em, we also have a name for ’em.
Yet there are also many old words that clearly were necessary for some peculiar reason but that we don’t use much now. For word lovers, it’s always fun to bring some of these out of retirement, if only – like mayflies – they can have their moment in the sun before disappearing back into obscurity for decades.
So welcome back to the spotlight the word nudiustertian, which on first inspection seems like it should have something to do with strippers and nakedness. Alas its meaning is much more prosaic – though fascinating in its own right.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means;
Of or relating to the day before yesterday
The word literally means “today the third day” and derives from the Latin word nudestarianus, which is turn originates from the phrase nudius tertius – the day before yesterday. Breaking this down even further, the word nudius comes from nu meaning “now,” and dius for “day,” and tertius means “third.”
THE OED goes on to gives its only example of the use of the word in a sentence from 1647, taken from the ever-popular The simple cobler of Aggawam in America, written by Nathaniel Ward.
When I heare a‥Gentledame inquire‥what [is] the nudiustertian fashion of the Court; I mean the very newest.
Sadly, there are no other examples, and this is truly sad because in all honesty, it’s hard to think of a way of slipping this word into a casual sentence! Indeed, a quick Google search for “nudiustertian examples” offers lots of examples of Nathaniel’s sentence, but little else. Even the folks at the usually prolific Wordnik site can only offer one extra sentence, and that’s a comment on the use of nudiustertian by Ward.
What we may have here is a word for which there is a meaning but no functional use! Or put another way, just because there is a word for “related to the day before yesterday” doesn’t mean it’s going to be used. Remember, it’s not a noun but an adjective, so it has to be used in an adjectival way.
In truth, even Ward appears to suggest that the word should not be used in its literally sense but as meaning “the newest” or “most recent.” No wonder it never caught on.
We also have a similar, although temporally opposite, word for “related to the day after tomorrow,” which is overmorrow. Yet as with nudiustertian, having a word for something doesn’t mean we’ll use it. Given the choice between “I’ll see you tomorrow” and “I see you overmorrow,” which do you think you’re likely to use?