When I was writing an article today, I used the word "agreeance," and Word automatically flagged it. I was flabbergasted. Although I don't believe I've actually used it in Word before, I know I've heard this word used before.
So I did what any good writer would do: I looked it up.
The first thing I came across was some tabloid-worthy controversy from 2003, when Fred Durst, of all people, used the word agreeance in a public statement...and was immediately blasted by the media and the blogosphere. Then the Oxford English Dictionary came to his rescue, and said yes, agreeance is actually a word... Albeit one that fell out of common use two and a half centuries ago.
Hmmmm. If agreeance is such an out-of-date word, why am I so familiar with it that I would use it on an instinctive level? (Note: I think for most writers, word choice is a highly instinctive process. Synonyms often carry slightly different shades of meaning, and I usually know which one best serves my intended meaning. The only time I use a thesaurus is when I know there's a better word for what I want to say, but I can't think of the precise one.)
I considered the possibility that I could be familiar with the word simply because I was a literature major, and therefore have read more of the classics than the average person. To test this theory, I asked my husband, who is pursuing a history major. Nope, he was familiar with the word too, and had no idea that the right to its existence is hotly contested.
If you read the opinions at the above link, you will see that some users have pointed out that agreeance is commonly used in Australia and New Zealand, while others devalue that usage by labeling it as "slang." I can't help but wonder if a word can really be "obsolete" and "slang" at the same time. Rather, wouldn't that simply mean that it's not obsolete, since it is still in use?
What are your thoughts? Is agreeance really a word? (For the record, I decided it was, and left it in my article; using agreement instead just didn't sound right.) Also, can you think of any other cases where "old-fashioned" words have been reinstated in modern language? I'm sure there must be others, but I can't think of any off the top of my head!