Tag Archives: words

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.

You can sign up for my quarterly newsletter by clicking the JOIN button in the sidebar. The next one isn’t until June 1st, but if there is any exciting news, like a new release, I’ll let you know.

Inclusive Language

winter-1142029_1280

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).

winter-1142029_1280
 Man: Human, People, Humanity.
 Man-made: Artificial, Synthetic. (Not only men make goods, you know.)

 

10 words and phrases you should never use

 

session-1989711_1280

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.

2 more words that cause confusion (and are driving me insane)

 

scrabble-2378253_1280

Last month I talked about the words NUMBER and AMOUNT. Today I’m going to talk about some similar words that get confused.
These words are FEWER and LESS.

I say they are similar to the previouys words because the same rules apply. So many people will say something like,
‘There were LESS people at the match this week than last week.’
This is WRONG. IN this case, it should be FEWER.
Just as NUMBER refers to things we count, like people, goals, sheep in a flock, minutes in an hour, items in a shopping trolley etc., so FEWER also refers to those things.
FEWER is a digital word. It refers to things we COUNT.
LESS refers to things we MEASURE. Thus we would have something like,
There is LESS snow today than the same time last year.
or There is less flour in this cake than that one.
BUT There are fewer eggs in this cake than that one.
We MEASURE the flour, but we COUNT the eggs.

Please leave a comment on this post. I love hearing from you, and reblogging would help get the message across to more people and save me from continually shouting at the TV and radio.

4 More Pairs of Commonly Confused Words

Even More Commonly Confused Words

I was reading the BT news the other day. Their journalists ought to read this blog I think because they keep making errors. The first one here I noticed a couple of days ago.

Peek/Peak
The article headline said something like ‘A sneak peak at…’
Peak, of course is the top of a mountain, while Peek is a quick glimpse of something. Perhaps there was a mountain hiding behind another, or a very sly one that was hiding, but I doubt it.

To, Too and Two.
This frequently appears in comments by people, and also in, I’m afraid to say, posts by writers.
To indicates movement towards as in ‘He gave the parcel to me.’
Too is an excess of something. ‘I had eaten too much and so I felt ill.’
I don’t often see Two misused. It is, of course the number. ‘Two buses passed me before the one I wanted arrived.’

Breath/Breathe
This can be a tricky one.
Breath is a noun and is what you take.
‘The doctor told me to take a deep breath.’
Breathe is a verb and is what you do.
‘The room seemed airless and I was finding it hard to breathe.’

Baring (bare)/Bearing(bear)
Another one from BT news.
Baring is the act of making bare, or naked. It is also used when revealing truths.
‘Baring all, the spy held nothing back in his interrogation.’
‘She removed her clothes, baring all.’
Bearing is carrying. (or of course, a large mammal living in the northern regions of the planet.)
‘The messenger arrived bearing the news of the king’s death.’

Then there is the problem of the past tense of these verbs. The past tense of Bear is Bore.
‘She bore the news that she had not got the job with equinamity.’
BUT, the past tense of Bare is Bared.
‘During the investigation, the criminal bared all.’

8 Over-used Words and Phrases

I am going to take a rest from my usual second Tuesday subject of Commonly Confused Words to talk about a few words and phrases that I think are very overused in today’s world. The unfortunate thing is that the overuse dilutes the meaning and/or impact of the words.

 I am talking from a UK point of view, here, of course. These words and phrases may not be in common use in other parts of the English speaking world. They may interest some of you. though.

1.  ICONIC or ICON.

Everything nowadays seems to be iconic. An icon was originally a religious picture. They were used in the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches and were usually pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints or angels and were used as aids to worship.

Another meaning of the word is a small picture or symbol that links to a program in computing.

Neither of these seem to fit the use of it as used commonly these days. It has come to mean something that represents something else.
‘The Eiffel tower is an iconic building.’ It represents Paris.
There are so many icons around these days! Nearly everythibng and everyone is an icon.

2. AWESOME.

I’m afraid our American friends are largely responsible for this one. While there are some truly awesome sights and events in the world, much of the time this word is used, the users mean something really good. It won’t fill them with awe and wonder, just make them feel excited and possibly surprised.

Having used the word ‘wonder’ above, it occurs to me that the word ‘awesome’ is going the same way as ‘wonderful’ and having its meaning diluted. What are we going to say to something truly awesome?

3. AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME.

As opposed to a moment out of time? where else is a moment except in time?

What’s wrong with ‘NOW’?

4. One beloved by football commentators. I’m still not sure how it came about.

EARLY DOORS.

This means that someone is going to do something , well, early! Why the ‘doors’ has been added, your guess is as good as mine. Are doors early? How are doors early? It irritates me.

5. VARIOUS DIFFERENT.

As opposed to various the same? Tortology, I think. Can you have a variety of things that are the same?

6. There are a couple of variations on this one.

THE REAL TRUTH, or THE TRUE FACTS.

You can’t have either an unreal truth or untrue facts. It’s either true or not, or it’s a fact or not.

7. UNIQUE.

‘Unique’ means there is only one. It does NOT mean that something is unusual or rare. You cannot have things that are ‘fairly unique’, ‘very unique’ or any other modifier. Something is either unique or it’s not. Period!

8. EPIC.

This word has come to mean some large event. We, in the UK have apparently been having floods of epic proportions. (Or else, if not epic, then of Biblical proportions!)

Epic is supposed to mean a monumental struggle of some kind, or something monstrously huge.

It originally meant a heroic story.

It is another use of a word being downgraded.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider reblogging it, or make a comment. I will endeavour to reply to all comments.

Sign up to my email list for all the latest news about my writing. I promise not to spam you. I hate spam too.