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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

When Does a Word Lose it's Original Meaning?

I wasn't going to post anything today, because I think the last 2 posts still haven't run their course. But, something was brought up by Alyssa, a newcomer to this blog (check our her kewl mannequin in her blog). So, I couldn't resist discussing it:

When a word is appropriated to mean something other than it originally meant, are we obligated to stop using it? For instance here, in Florida (which used to be Land of Mobile Home Parks a.k.a. God's Waiting Room) we had a mobile home park named Gay Ranch. Well, once the word 'gay' began to mean something else in the 70s, we drove by it one day to see it was renamed Bay Ranch. We kids got a real chuckle out of that, thinking about how the grannies probably couldn't move fast enough to get that word off the sign.

Perhaps there's no way around it, and we must bow to common usage. I don't know. But I remember being taught in one of my classes in college that Chaucer used plenty of words that we consider foul now, but were commonly used by everyone back then.

24 comments:

Fred said...

Not only words but social customs, also. In the early part of this century, it was common to dress baby boys up in pink. Try doing that today.

Saur♥Kraut said...

*LOL* Yes, excellent point. I have a picture of my grandfather in a dress when he was 3 years old. They dressed all little boys and girls the same until they got a little older than that.

mal said...

What happens is words are used as euphemisms for other terms much as "gay" has been appropriated for homosexual. I think it happened in this case because of the semantic loading around the words "queer" "homosexual" etc.. "Gay" now has a generally accepted prime usage in this country very different from what it was 50 years ago.

Is it right or wrong? Good or bad? I do not know but it has happened before and will happen again. Change is the only constant *L*

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mallory, true dat. ;o)

snicksnack said...

How about the word Fairy? Good thing that BOTH meanings are accepted... Otherwise what would we call Fairy Tales? Flying Magical Winged Being Tales?

Your Fairy Godmother said...

A most excellent and thoughtful question, Snicksnack.

We fairies really prefer to keep it simple, so we're quite happy that no one is making small children learn such long words in their tender youth.

Anonymous said...

How about the word pimp? I'm sick of hearing that word used to describe something that has been fixed, enhanced, or madeover.

Saur♥Kraut said...

...as in "Pimp My Ride"? Yeah, I hate it too. Tacky and overused.

bananarama said...

I think I remember hearing that the word p*ss was used like we use the word pee today. Now, it's seen as being a kind of nasty word.

Tabasamu said...

I love the last two blogs, Saur. Thanks for pointing us to the manniquin site. Fun!

Saur♥Kraut said...

NP, TC! That was fun to write.

I'm making your cabbage and bacon recipe right now. Mmmm, calories, here we come...

A Little Bar of Soap said...

It is so sad that the word "gay" has been ruined for the righteous.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Bar of Soap! so nice that you graced us here with your presence.

AP3 said...

I personally like it when groups sort of re-claim a word by embracing it. I love the way the GLBT community (my community) has embraced the word "queer".

And I like that "phat" means cool (or something like that) now. "Sick" also means cool. It gets kinda confusing, actually!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Aral, good point. But though the BLBT community can use the word 'queer', heteros can't or it sounds nasty. You know? I have other friends that are gay, but I can't bring myself to call them queer.

Funny story about the word 'phat'. First time I heard it, I was a size 6 wishing I was a 3 again. So this guy I'm dating tells me how PHAT I am and I almost hauled off and hit him. *g* He did some fast explaining.

Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...

Don't mean to be offensive, but I remember reading in the Guardian newspaper about how the word "fuck" is losing its meaning to the extent that it is no longer offensive.

Somehow, I can't get over the fact that that word will always cause some serious discomfort to people.

Having said that, running through the film "Goodfellas" and "Casino" was enough to make me think that the word just lost ALL of its sexuality, you know...

any thoughts on that word, Saurkraut?

mal said...

Saur, if some guy called me "phat" I would have hit him any way *L*

back-to-basics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Saur♥Kraut said...

Michelle,
Oops. I am soooo sorry. I just replied. I missed them, because I get so much crap in the box from colleagues and clients. Um...actually, I'm very grateful for that because it means we're thriving. But, you know what I mean.

Emmanuel,

Funny you should bring up the word F*ck. From what I understand, that word also was very commonly used (I think it's in the Canterbury Tales?) I do think it's definately lost it's ability to shock for most people, although it still is a deliberately offensive word. I thought of Joe Pesci when you were talking about it. That's sometimes ALL he can say. ;o)

Anonymous said...

How about the word "crib" I use to invision little jr. all cuddled up in his bed with his favorite blankie. Now, big BIG mansions overlooking the beach owned by some guy (I don't know) with a basketball.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous, 'crib' actually started out as prison slang because if you're in a cell, you're looking through the bars just like a kid looks through crib bars.

Of course, you can still 'crib' off someone's notes in school, too! But that's an OLD use for the word.

Anonymous said...

eek! Prison cell. Think it's time to buy Jr. a toddler bed.

Saur♥Kraut said...

*LOL* One of my favorite quotes from "Back to the Future" is where Michael J Fox sees his Uncle Joey as a baby, in a crib. He bends down to look through the bars at him and says "Get used to looking through these bars, kid!"

R2K said...

Cool page! :O)

http://r2000.blogspot.com