In this lesson, we’re going to look at four more fossil words that have been preserved within modern English idioms. These archaic words are rarely, if ever, used outside of the idiomatic expressions in which they are embedded. In fact, an English speaker using an idiom containing a fossil word might not even be aware of what the fossil word means on its own.
Amok, meaning “behaving uncontrollably and disruptively,” has its origins in Malaysian culture. In the strictest sense, amok refers to a period of mass assault against people or objects, usually by a single individual. In modern English, however, amok is used almost exclusively in the idiom to run amok. This usage is considerably broader and refers to anyone or anything wildly out of control.
I dislike when parents let their children run amok in public and don’t do anything to stop them.
Caboodle is used in the idiom kit and caboodle, which means “entirely everything or the whole lot.” Caboodle is what is known as a “born fossil” because it has always been used as part of a fixed phrase and has no meaning on its own. Kit and caboodle evolved from kit and boodle, which itself is derived from the Dutch kitte en boedel:
I told Jim to pack light, but he brought the whole kit and caboodle with him.
Vim, meaning “energy or strength,” is used exclusively in the idiom vim and vigor in modern English. Vigor also means energy or strength, so the idiom essentially indicates an abundance of these qualities:
She was full of vim and vigor after completing her new exercise routine.
Turpitude comes from the Latin turpis, meaning “vile or base.” The word usually appears in the phrase moral turpitude, which is used in law to denote an act that gravely violates the accepted standards of a community. When used more broadly, moral turpitude can simply mean any act of extreme depravity.