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Memories of the 28th Century

Language Change

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At some time in the past I wrote about the perception of the passage of time and subjective idea of how long is a time. That matter came to mind again today in regard to the evolution of language.

Many things change over time, and language is one. I am far from being old, but in my few years the English language has already changed significantly. I dont know whether they are being suggestive, but many women will reply, Im good. When asked How are you?"

Not that many years ago, "I'm good" was the abbreviated way to say: "I am good in bed", and the reply to "How are you" was "I am well." I feel confident that some people make the reply as a suggestive comment, but I think that the majority has changed the meanings of "good" and "well". That's one that I find amusing, and one of these days I will have to inquire when a suitable woman tells me that she is good. (An even better misuse of language happened in an elevator yesterday, but I may meet her again.) A few decades ago no one would have made that mistake, so I might have reacted differently then.

There are many spellings that have changed recently. One of the rules that I learned was that when a final consonant is preceded with a short vowel suffixes require that the final consonant be repeated. Thus 'travel', travelled', travelling', etc., and the same with all similar words. These days the spell checker alerts me to that as a mistake, and I ignore the spell checker.

Another spelling rule was that words that end with an 'f' have too have the 'f' changed to a 'v' when a suffix is added. Examples include: calf - calved, calves, etc., roof - rooves, hoof - hooves, and so on. This came to mind recently, because I got a strange look when I asked someone about scarves; I then repeated using "scarfs" instead and was understood. Interestingly, the spell checker in Word has no problems with any of the words I used as examples. That may mean that the settings I changed may have been effective, or someone may have mentioned to Microsoft that their spelling preferences were not universally accepted. But it just asserted that "Parrotted" was wrong, so it is variable.

In addition to spelling changes, there have been changes in common expressions. One that comes to mind is the word "fantastic". Fundamentally, it means 'of or pertaining to fantasy'. Synonyms include fanciful

1. conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque: 2. fanciful or capricious, as persons or their ideas or actions:
3. imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality; foolish or irrational:
4. extravagantly fanciful; marvelous.
5. incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant:
6. highly unrealistic or impractical; outlandish:
Informal. extraordinarily good:

Roughly a half century ago people started saying "I'm fantastically good." After not too long a time that was abbreviated to "I'm fantastic." If one is liberal in understanding, then the shift makes sense, but being fantastic can mean something very different from "fantastically good". I suspect that the double entendre was intentional in some cases, but other people simply parrotted the phrase.

Language is fluid. I just remembered something that happened a few centuries ago. When the word "occupy" entered English in the 14th century, it meant about the same as it means now, but during the 16th and 17th centuries it acquired a sexual connotation, referring to sexual congress. For hundreds of years it was not used in polite society, except behind closed doors: "Hey Babe, you want me to occupy you?" Then for some reason in the last few hundred years it lost the sexual connation. I kind of like it as a subtle word for congress, but not many people do.

There are many words that have changed in some way, and I wrote about the twisting of "liberal". That was so bad that the liberal party in the U.S. calls itself "libertarian", because the fascists so damaged "liberal", but until that party took up using "libertarian", that word meant a believer in free will, but I already dealt with free will, so I win't do that again.