Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. Sign in or register to get started.

Categories

Dark Dreams of Furiae - a new module for NWN:EE! Buy now
Attention, new and old users! Please read the new rules of conduct for the forums, and we hope you enjoy your stay!

The Strange Case of the English Language

13567

Comments

  • AlmateriaAlmateria Member Posts: 257

    @atcDave , What bothers me so much about "literally", is that the non-literate speakers are trying to make it mean exactly the opposite of what it actually means.

    If someone says something like "This job has literally driven me insane!", I want to reply with "I'm sorry. I'll dial 911 and call for an ambulance to get you to the psych hospital. They should be able to help you with medications."

    It already does. Check the dictionary.
    Ignoring that the meaning of words change is not good for anyone.

  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    Letting words shift to opposite meanings is Orwellian idiocy. At best, it's a Shibboleth for the "in" crowd.

    BelgarathMTH
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    BillyYank said:

    I like archaic slang and expressions:
    Land sakes!
    Gadzooks!
    I can jive with the hep-cats!

    My biggest language pet peeve is the misuse of words, especially by people who should know better. Every time I hear a reporter use decimate as a synonym for annihilate, I figuratively want to kill every tenth newscaster.

    In an infamous incident in my own life, I wrote a really long and urgent message to my boss. His response was as follows:

    "While I emphasize with your position, at the moment there is nothing that can be done."

    This was way back when auto-correct was in it's infancy and before it became full blown borked and evil.

    atcDave
  • iKrivetkoiKrivetko Member Posts: 934
    edited September 2015
    Everyone ranting about "literally" should look up "hyperbole" and "irony".

    bob_vengGreenWarlocksemiticgoddess
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    Almateria said:

    @atcDave , What bothers me so much about "literally", is that the non-literate speakers are trying to make it mean exactly the opposite of what it actually means.

    If someone says something like "This job has literally driven me insane!", I want to reply with "I'm sorry. I'll dial 911 and call for an ambulance to get you to the psych hospital. They should be able to help you with medications."

    It already does. Check the dictionary.
    Ignoring that the meaning of words change is not good for anyone.
    It might be interesting to interject:

    The term MRS does not (as is commonly believed) derive from the term Missus. You will notice that there is no "R" in Missus. The reason for this is that the term MRS actually derives from the word Mistress. At one point in the distant past, the lady of the house was Mistress. Hence, her abbreviation was Mrs. It's only more recently that the 'Wife' referred to Missus and the girlfriend (of a married man) was his Mistress.

    It is also worth noting that the proper translation for the word Galapagos is Tortoise, which means that if you ever encounter a Galapagos Tortoise, it is actually a Tortoise tortoise.

    atcDaveSethDavis
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
    atcDave said:

    Letting words shift to opposite meanings is Orwellian idiocy. At best, it's a Shibboleth for the "in" crowd.

    Except that in 1984 it was the state dictating the shift of words. This is a shift of common usage driven by the (admittedly ignorant) people. Someone above mentioned the Academie Francaise (excuse the lack of diacritics - I'm on my phone)... That has to be more Orwellian.

    I'm a traditionalist, but the reason English is so expressive and versatile is that it has always been organic...

  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    In keeping with the Orwellian theme, who is to say that language shifts are "of the people" and not planted, designed and orchestrated via popular media and other sources? We think that the creation of, or shifting of meaning of a given word today is because someone else said it? Are we SO SURE that someone isn't behind the scenes planting the ideas, in say Hollywood?

    In the 90s, someone commissioned a study on marketing. In that study it was found that inclusion of the letter 'X' or the word 'Extreme' automatically gave a rather significant lift to sales of a product. If the same study were to be performed today, we might very well find that the letter 'i' has a similar effect. Is this natural and organic? Or is it a concerted marketing campaign making us believe that others think it is cool and relevant?

    Before anyone jumps on me for being a conspiracy theorists, I'm not. But I do understand the power of marketing and think that most people don't realize to what degree they are manipulated every single day by marketers.

    atcDaveBelgarathMTH
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308
    @the_spyder

    As ever, Randall Munroe has an interesting take on your point: http://xkcd.com/1571/

    (If you don't already follow xkcd, you really should try it... it's one of the best things on the internet!)

    I agree that the influence of marketing/media can't be ignored in language (or, really, any part of modern life). However, you have to look at the case in point and look for motivation... who is served by misuse (abuse?!) of "literally", and how?

    Also, there's the fact that if there's one surefire way to stop kids doing a thing, it's to make it so ubiquitous that their parents do it too!

    I think, in the case of literally vs figuratively, it simply comes down to the fact that people don't really understand the distinction. They've most likely heard "clever people" use the word and assumed from the context that it just implies emphasis (or apparently "empathy", in your previous example! :smile:).

    BelgarathMTH
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    I get that language is organic and constantly changing. I'm actually fine with that. My vocabulary and usage is very different from my parents, and is very different from younger generations.
    But those changes that come from ignorance will always irk me. It's one thing when new technical terms are needed, or even when ways of expressing shift. But using words wrongly, and not even knowing it, is just annoying.

    BelgarathMTH
  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,826
    Since we're still talking about George Orwell, I found it amusing how in his essay "Politics and the English Language," when he is denouncing the use of the passive voice in other people's writing, he writes, "the passive voice is wherever possible used." Ha!

    Though actually later on in the essay he does mention, "Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against."

    It was a really interesting essay, though. If any of you haven't seen it and are interested in seeing it, here's a link.

    https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

  • deltagodeltago Member Posts: 7,810
    Original meanings of words do get lost to the annals of time and "literally" is not the first time a definition did a complete 180.

    The original broadcast of the Hindenburg crashed described it as terrific. Listening to it today, it may sound like it is being praised, but the orginial meaning meant to "cause terror."

    Ravish(ing) literally meant to drag away and rape but slowly the word evolved into describing someone else's beauty.

    BelgarathMTHatcDave
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    And of course "awesome" used to mean great and terrible. Now it's just great.

    BelgarathMTHlolienJuliusBorisov
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    @abacus - As I stated above, I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor do I "Particularly" subscribe to any Orwellian "Big brother is watching". And I do not say that every trend ever is some Machiavellian construct, merely that there are trends that do appear to have been designed around marketing and in service to a given purpose.

    For those who ARE conspiracy theorists, I can see a whole host of theories behind why certain things happen.

    In the movie Paul, it is suggested that the reason that there has been such a proliferation of 'little grey aliens' in the popular media is to desensitize the public to same facing the impending reveal that aliens do exist. I don't subscribe to this theory, but i put it out there as the 'Type of thing' I was attempting to interject into the conversation. The meanings (always assuming that there are reasons and causes) may not always be apparent, but that doesn't completely dissuade the theory that certain trends are done to a purpose and with clandestine help.

    Or so the theory goes.

  • AlmateriaAlmateria Member Posts: 257
    lol
    "I'm not a conspiracy theorists, but what if the Big Media shapes our thoughts and dreams with word control? Makes u think"

  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,308

    @abacus - As I stated above, I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor do I "Particularly" subscribe to any Orwellian "Big brother is watching". And I do not say that every trend ever is some Machiavellian construct, merely that there are trends that do appear to have been designed around marketing and in service to a given purpose.

    Apologies, my post may have seemed confrontational. It wasn't intended to be.

    Your point has a lot of merit. At the very least, large media/marketing organisations strive to be au fait with current trends, and manipulate them in whatever way is beneficial. This is why such organisations spend so much now on social media... it's probably the most effective tool ever for keeping a finger on the pulse and, if used intelligently, even actively shaping debate or opinion.

    the_spyder
  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    edited September 2015
    i have a gripe with a modern common usage of 'apologetic' where "he was apologetic" means "he apologized; he was sorry"

    originally "he was apologetic" meant "he was justificative; he did NOT apologize and was not sorry, but instead defended himself"

    edit:
    also there's 'peruse'...

    "1. To read or examine, typically with great care.
    2. To glance over; skim."

    JuliusBorisovSethDavis
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    @abacus - no worries. I worked for many years in marketing. I know all to well the kinds of research that has been done to influence the public towards a given product or way of thinking. You see it in commercials every day where some company will propose two courses of action as if they are the only ones possible, and then dress up one and condemn the other, thus making the public think that they are 'making up their own mind' by choosing as the marketer wishes. It's insidious.

    And absolutely big corporations spend huge amounts of time and effort in an attempt to manipulate the social consciousness. As to how effective that is (clearly it is effective, but to what degree??) is another question entirely. And as for some shadow entity behind the scenes attempting to manipulate the entire population? That's a level of paranoia that I prefer not to explore.

    To quote Slartibartfast (Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy):

    "Slartibartfast: Oh, no that's perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the Universe has that."

    I think we are on the same page.

    abacuswubble
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    bob_veng said:

    i have a gripe with a modern common usage of 'apologetic' where "he was apologetic" means "he apologized; he was sorry"

    originally "he was apologetic" meant "he was justificative; he did NOT apologize and was not sorry, but instead defended himself"

    On a related note; its amusing how many will misunderstand the terms "apologist" or "apologetic".
    If you call someone an apologist for a particular position or viewpoint its amusing how often they'll take it as some sort of challenge or insult!

    BelgarathMTH
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,646
    edited September 2015
    "Apologist for" is jargon used in academia, especially in liberal arts studies, to mean "advocate for" or "defender of". People who never went to college or took liberal arts classes have often never heard or read the term used in context.

    atcDave
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    @BelgarathMTH - isn't that more or less an derogatory term though? If you are an "Apologist for", isn't that basically the other side saying that you are less there to defend a point of view and more to apologize for it?

    it's been a few years since I was in 'academia'.

  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 2,307
    edited September 2015
    apologist is not jargon, it really does mean only that

    but apologetic in the meaning "sorry" is a much newer usage compared to the original "sorry but not sorry"

    Post edited by bob_veng on
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    Apologist is not derogatory! I carry the name proudly for those things I want to advocate.

    Apologetic is an intellectual and reasoned defense of something.

    I see it most often in explanations of Christian faith and doctrine.
    But it's also come up on a television show fan site I write for. There are a couple of story arcs that were controversial; so discussions usually fragment between detractors and apologists!

    In gaming it comes up with the various rule sets. I'm a 2e apologist, and proud of it!

    lolienbob_vengBelgarathMTHJuliusBorisov
  • MathsorcererMathsorcerer Member Posts: 3,009
    I am surprised no one has mentioned "polish", which changes its pronunciation depending upon whether or not it is capitalized. "polish" is something you put on your car, "Polish" is someone from Krakow.

    A slightly different type word is "record", which changes its pronunciation depending upon whether it is a noun (I am going to listen to the record) or a verb (let's record the concert so we can upload it).

    NonnahswriterBillyYanklolienJuliusBorisov
  • atcDaveatcDave Member Posts: 1,933
    Did you really mean "Geek for bear"? I wasn't aware that was a real language (!).

    There's a few such things; Sahara is simply some North African word for desert, so it's the Desert Desert. And of course Panzer is German for tank, soooo many documentaries refer to Panzer tanks...

    JuliusBorisov
  • BillyYankBillyYank Member Posts: 2,769
    abacus said:
    I'm going to use the word "overmorrow" every chance I get.


    (My spellchecker doesn't recognize overmorrow as a word. I need to report that as a bug.)

    atcDave
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,018
    I'm surprised no one in this thread has mentioned oxymoron (and I am not referring to peroxide blondes here). A group of words or phrase that is self-contradictory. Yet another fun and interesting concept in language.

    JuliusBorisovwubbleatcDaveNonnahswriter
  • deltagodeltago Member Posts: 7,810
    Fun fact: every one pronounces oxymoron wrong.

Sign In or Register to comment.