The Unorthodox Website Blog

Living Language

03 Feb

English is a living language, so meanings change, spellings change, new words are invented and old ones discarded or disused.

Meanings that have changed in living memory include ‘cool’, ‘gay’ and ‘fit’. While retaining their old meanings, they are increasingly used in their newer context. I guess this is fine, though it still grates with me when weedy, sickly looking youths and girls are described as ‘fit’, but the same could be said for miserable looking homosexuals described as being ‘gay’. Only I’m more used to that expression since it was used by the gay community in that context long before it came into general usage.

What does annoy me is when nouns are adopted as verbs then made into a non-existent noun when there is already a perfectly good noun already available. Some verbs and nouns have long been interchangeable – thus we have things like ‘walk’, ‘chair’, ‘table’, etc. which can be either used as verbs or nouns. However more recently we have monstrosities like to ‘restructure’ meaning to ‘reorganize’ or possibly to ‘reconstruct’. This leads also to clumsy new nouns like  ’restructuring’ in place of ‘reorganization’ or ‘reconstruction’ usually in the context of an organization.

Spelling in the English language has always been weird and wonderful, and has changed a lot over the years. Many of the spellings considered to be American are in fact older British spellings and are still approved by the Oxford English Dictionary, in fact even preferred in many cases. Some of these Webster spellings have been adopted in English-speaking places like Australia (Australian Labor Party being one example). Increasingly they are accepted as alternative British spellings due to the influence of the Internet and computer software, which invariably use spellings like ‘Favorites’ and ‘Center’. I’m all in favor of this, believing it should be a matter of personal choice how we spell words which have several valid spellings in the English-speaking world.

So next time I see a sickly, weedy looking homosexual guy who always has a scowl on his face, is always moaning and looks as if he’ll drop dead from exhaustion any minute I’ll try to think of him as being ‘fit’ and ‘gay’ despite appearances to the contrary!

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