GLAMOUR and gloaming are old Scots words with unique shades of meaning that could never all be translated into standard English. They could only be absorbed intact by the neighbour language, and that was what happened.

Usually the linguistic influence works the other way round, so that the Scots tongue gets less poetic over time rather than more poetic. We can only hurry to the rescue by recording the variety of cases and the difference they make, especially the more obscure changes. But that is no guarantee against loss.

A favourite oddball of mine is “Gordon Bennett”, used to express surprise, contempt, outrage, disgust or frustration. I can show you a character in a novel saying “Gordon Bennett – he couldn’t even keep himself sane, let alone anyone else” or “Gordon Bennett. He wasn’t half tired.”

Perhaps it would not normally be recognised as Scots but it stakes a claim. This is because its origin goes back to a James Gordon Bennett who was born on a farm near Enzie in Banffshire in 1795. He grew to manhood as the Napoleonic wars came to an end and the jobs market was getting crowded with discharged soldiers. At the age of 24, with just a fiver in his pocket, he chose to try his luck in America and set off with a pal. Young Scots were luckier than the sons of any other nation because its universal system of education sent them out into the world at least literate and therefore better equipped than most young Englishmen or Irishmen.

In Boston, and then in New York, it was easy for a lad from Enzie to find copywriting jobs and start to make his way in the world of newspapers. In 1835, Bennett founded the New York Herald with a budget of just $500, producing a four-page penny paper from a cellar.

After only a year of publication, it had identified a readership that liked to be shocked, and another that loved to be allured, with front-page coverage of stories such as the grisly murder of a prostitute, Helen Jewett.

But Bennett ensured he made a pitch to the top and not just the bottom of the market. In 1839, he was granted the first-ever exclusive interview with a sitting US president, Martin Van Buren. Over the next three decades, Bennett built the Herald into the newspaper with the biggest circulation in the world. In his drive for fresh classes of reader, he was the first to list the closing prices of stocks traded each day on the New York Stock Exchange. He also introduced a social column.

But he did not bring in these features at the expense of serious news. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, he hired as many as 63 correspondents to cover the battlefields and the effects on everyday life behind them.

Readership soared and distribution swelled via railways and steamships. Purchasers devoured the diet of news and scandal delivered on a scale never seen before. Bennett became a millionaire.

But how did this Banffshire loon also manage to embed himself in the lexicon of the English language?

The answer lies in his son, James Gordon Bennett junior, who had a different goal in life – to introduce to America the profession of playboy. In the media this has often been a problem with the offspring of founding proprietors, but the Bennetts set the style.

The son took over from the father in 1866 with the aim “not to instruct, but to startle”. In counterpoint to his rustic roots in Scotland, James Gordon Bennett junior would indulge his tastes for the first fast cars, for biplanes – and above all for women – in the endless supply that his father’s fortune made available right into the next century.

In fact, the Americas were a bit tame for him. He disliked England but moved permanently to Europe in 1877 and ran the New York Herald from his 314ft yacht the Lysistrata.

He liked to encourage travel for others, too. He hired journalist and adventurer Henry Morton Stanley to go to Africa to look for the missing missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone. The find was made with the famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume” at Ujiji by Lake Tanganyika.

With more tragic consequences, Bennett junior funded the North Pole expedition of George W De Long, a venture of the US Navy that ended in the deaths of 20 men in the frozen Arctic Sea.

But oceans could see good times, too. Bennett also used his inheritance to sponsor from 1900 the Bennett Trophy, for the earliest motorbike races on the perfect terrain of the Isle of Man with its winding roads across empty countryside. In 1904 he added the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial, restricted to touring automobiles. In 1906 he started the “Blue Ribbon” in aeronautics, the first international hot air balloon race launched from Paris. It is still held today.

Things did go wrong from time to time but Bennett believed in stunts and sensation, both as stories for his paper and to enliven his private life.

He entered the Guinness Book of Records for the Greatest Engagement Faux Pas after urinating, when sodden with drink, in the fireplace of the home of his fiancee’s parents.

It was all the more awkward for the fact that he did not marry till he was 73. His wife was Maud Potter, widow of George de Reuter, son of Julius Paul Reuter, founder of Reuters news agency. Bennett died in 1918 on the French Riviera, a long way from Enzie.

It was events like those in the Gordon Bennetts’s lives that led to their name being used as a polite way to deal with the unexpected.

It can also be a “minced oath”, where an offensive term is toned down by misspelling or mispronunciation. It is altogether a useful linguistic device for the loud-mouthed 21st century.