I've picked up this word 'scourge' from Jerome K. Jerome's book "Three men in the boat" and when I actually used it with a native-speaker (Australian) she wouldn't understand it asking me what does scourge mean. Then I found out 'bane' can be used instead. What is the difference? Is 'scourge' more obsolete and fancy and I should avoid it because people will not understand me?
Scourge - a person or thing that causes great trouble or suffering.
Bane - a cause of great distress or annoyance.
Scourge - a means of inflicting punishment or suffering
Bane - a person or thing that causes misery or distress (esp in the phrase bane of one's life)
Seems like the meaning is almost the same.
Google trends show how 'bane' is used 7x times more frequently comparing to 'scourge' now:
What is interesting is that 'scourge' seems to be used more frequently in books: there is an n-gram