I have been considering the degradation of words recently.I know words are constantly evolving, but it seems to me that more often than not, they become degraded and lose their meaning.
Let’s take SWEAR WORDS as an example.
When I was growing up, some words that are now considered normal, (and I use them myself on occasion) were definite no-nos, and had I used them I would have been in serious trouble. Words such a damn or b*&&er. (just in case the gremlins in the internet have decided it’s still a bad word.)
The words that are now thought of a swear words, I didn’t know. I never heard them. Such words as the F word and the C word have become commonplace, if what I hear in the street is anything to go by.
These words have become degraded. They are no longer as ‘bad’ as they once were.
This has happened to other words, too. The one that immediately jumps to mind is AWESOME. Things are no longer just ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’. They have to be ‘awesome’. Do things commonly described as such really fill the speaker with awe? I doubt it.
The next word we’re hearing a lot these days. That word is HERO. We hear it applied to all and sundry. According to dictionary.com, a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” Not everybody who is simply performing acts of human decency.
ICONIC is another word that has become degraded. Everything now sseems to be ‘iconic’. Originally an icon was a religious portrait to aid worship. It can also be the depiction of a victorious athlete, soldier, or a sovereign.
Here’s one we were told not to use, when we were in school. NICE.
Once it meant fastidious or scrupulous. Now it just apples to anything that give a bit of pleasure.
A nice garden. She’s a nice person.
Finally, here’s one that can often be left out of sentences. (Writers take note.) It has degraded so much that it is now almost meaningless. That word is ACTUALLY.
Originally it meant something unexpected. Now it’s often only an interjection.
I hope you enjoyed reading these words. This was not what I originally set off to write. I was going to make a list of confused words I’ve come across recently. That will be another post for another day.
Are there any words that you’ve noticed being degraded? If so, add them to the comments in the comments box.
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