Tag Archives: word usage

6 words that have lost meaning

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.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

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.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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.

Image by StanWilliamsPhoto from Pixabay

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.

Image by teotea from Pixabay

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.

Image by Daga_Roszkowska from Pixabay

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.

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

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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Inclusive Language

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I heard a programme on the radio yesterday. It was about domestic abuse. Specifically, coercive control. It got me thinking.

Why do men (it’s usually men, although not exclusively, I admit) think they have the right to control their partners or spouses?

Well, I think that it’s because these people consider themselves to be superior and ‘know what’s right’, as well, of course, wanting power over someone. But you can only get power over someone whom you think is inferior to you.

How has this come about? And how can we change attitudes?

This is not an easy thing, but there is one thing that, I think, adds to the problem, and that is exclusive language.

When I was growing up, the common term for our species that was in use was ‘Man’ (With a capital letter to distinguish it from ‘man’, the male of the species.) Nowadays, I often see ‘man’ as referring to the species as a whole. No capital letter to distinguish it from ‘Man’.

If we consider the animal kingdom, often we refer to a species by a name that is the name of one gender or the other. Cow, Goose, Hen, duck, dog etc. We say to our children ‘Let’s go and feed the ducks.’ Or ‘Look at those cows in that field.’
We call these creatures by the name of the gender that is most useful to us. Hens lay eggs. Cockerels don’t. Cows give us milk from which we make butter, and cheese. Bulls don’t. Ducks and geese lay eggs. Drakes and ganders don’t, and when I was growing up, a dog (male) was the preferred gender to have. And ‘bitch’ is a derogatory term, anyway, as are so many female names. (witch and cow, for example.) And if you want to insult a man, you can call him a bit of a ‘girl’ or ‘woman’.

In the north of England, a term of endearment is ‘duck’, but I think it has a certain condescention about it. Probably that’s just me, though

Male names are often, or were in the past, used as praise. A very long time ago, the term ‘a gay dog’ meant that the man was a womanizer. But that was not considered too bad, really. In fact it was often said with some hint of approval. Yet if a woman did the same type of things, she was a ‘slag’.

The male names for animals applied to men do not have the same connotation. A stag party is a group of young men out to have a good time before a wedding. Stags are imposing beasts, strong and beautiful. Now think about the female version—hen party—. Hens are silly, fluttering and noisy clucking creatures. If you want to say someone is unpleasant, you can call them a bitch, or a cow. Even a mare is occasionally used. All names for the female animal.

Now what about the males. I’ve already talked about ‘dog’, but ‘bull’ isn’t used derogatorily. It usually implies the man is strong, and stallion that he’s good in bed, to be polite.

Now to language, which is what this post is all about. Here are some alternatives you can use in your writing (or even in your speech).

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 Man: Human, People, Humanity.
 Man-made: Artificial, Synthetic. (Not only men make goods, you know.)

 

10 words and phrases you should never use

 

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1. Obviously. This word is one that is unnecessary. If something is obvious, it does not need stating.
2. So. Lots of people open sentences with ‘so’. It usually has no meaning and is just a filler word. Someone asks a question ‘Why did you go to see Jason yesterday?’ , and the response is ‘So. I haven’t seen him for ages and wondered if he’s all right.’
3. Very unique. Unique means there is only one of it. Adding ‘very’ is meaningless. As is adding other qualifiers.
4. Just. Unless you are talking about the judicial system, ‘just’ is another filler word. We often say ‘I was just going to do it.’ Don’t write it.
5. Very. You should try to find stronger word. Don’t say ‘very big’ use ‘enormous’. ‘Huge,’ etc. The English language, thanks to the way it’s developed, is rich in synonyms.
6. Awesome. This word is greatly overused. It actually means something that fills you with awe, not just something that’s pretty good.
7. Nice. This is something I was taught at school, many centuries ago. OK, maybe not quite that long, but a long time ago anyway. Don’t use ‘nice’. Choose a stronger, more interesting word.
8. Really. Similar to ‘Very’. ‘A really nice cake’ (Look, I used 2 of these words in 1 sentence!) Choose a stronger word.
9. Irregardless. This is NOT a word. The word is ‘regardless’.
10. Try and… Try and actually means you will try, and you will do it. If you succeed, you don’t need to try. If you try, you will nor necessarily succeed. Use ‘Try to…’ instead.

10 words I found an author had confused.

I recently read a book in which the author made many mistakes in the word he chose to use. I won’t embarrass him by naming the book or author just in case he ever looks at this post. Suffice it to say that it isn’t the usual genre I read, being horror.

I actually found the storyline quite good and it read with pace, but here are some of the mistakes he made with words.

1. Traverse: Transverse

Traverse is a verb meaning to go across something, like, as in the story, a forest.
Transverse is an adjective meaning something that goes across something else. e.g. a diagonal line crossing a shape, or a piece of wood going across another to form a cross.

The author wrote ‘…the only way to transverse the property…’

2. Disperse: Dispense

Disperse means to scatter. E.g. The crowd dispersed in an orderly manner.
Dispense means to do without. E.g. As the weather was warmer, he dispensed with wearing a coat.

The author wrote  ‘…dispersed with human words…’

3. Soul: Sole
This one amused me greatly.
Soul is the spiritual part of a person that carries on after death.
Sole is the base of a shoe, or the only one.

The author wrote ‘…rubber boots, their souls encased in mud…’

4. Boarded: Bordered

Another amusing one.
Boarded means to get onto a ship, coach, aircraft, bus etc
Bordered means to go round the edge of something.

The author wrote ‘Two candles boarded a statue of the Buddha.’

5.Forth: Fourth

Forth is to set off, go or depart.
Fourth is the one after third and before fifth.

The author wrote ‘He dumped the first three cards and was in the process of leading the forth.’

6. Hold: Holed

Hold is to have something in one’s hands.
Holed is to hide away.

The author wrote, ”We hold up in my grandfather’s hunting cabin.’

7. Site: Sight

Site refers to a place. E.g. This is the site of the battle.
Sight refers to seeing.

The author wrote ‘He brought up the front site of the shotgun.

8. Crucifix: Crucifixion.

Crucifix is is the cross on which people were killed in Roman times.
Crucifixion is what happens on the cross.

The author wrote, ‘The priest stood next to the first crucifixion.’
‘A large semicircle with twelve crucifixions…’
‘Strapped to the crucifixions…’

9. Finally: Finale

Finally is an adverb. It means coming at the end.
Finale is a noun and it refers to the last act.

The author wrote, ‘The grand finally…’

10. Wetting: Whetting

Wetting means to put water on something.
Whetting means to sharpen something. E.g. a stone used to sharpen a knife is called a whetstone.

The author wrote, ‘…wetting their appetite…’

Those were the main ones I noted down, as well as some common ones like were and where, choose and chose and the inevitable loose and lose.

Now I’m prepared to be generous and say some of these might, just might, be typos, but even in that case, it was poor. The manuscript should have been edited better.

It’s things like this that give self-published authors a bad name. It’s easier to get a bad name than a good one, and very difficult to get rid of a bad name once it’s been established. Unfortunately, in many people’s eyes, self-published authors are poor and produce poor books, and it’s things like this that reinforce this opinion.

So please, please, please, if you are a self-publishing author, or are thinking of self-publishing, get your manuscripts edited and all corrections made before going to press with it. At least read through it properly and get someone else (as many someone elses as you can, preferably) to do so as well if you can’t afford a professional editor. I’ve never heard anyone say they couldn’t finish a book because it had no errors, but I’ve heard many say the opposite.

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