Words subject to change

25 Words That Are Their Own OppositesAwful

Awful in its current meaning means ‘very bad or unpleasant’ or is used to emphasize the extent of something e.g. ‘I made and awful fool of myself’. However its origins see it as ‘awe-ful’ as in full of awe. This shows a semantic shift in the word as it has gone from having positive connotations to now having negative connotations despite the word itself having changed very little. Peter Trudgill could use this as an example that language change cannot be stopped and is not a bad thing. Even though the meaning of the word has completely changed, Trudgill would argue that it causes no confusion because it is so widely used in its current form, and not many people will know about its original meaning.


Slay comes from Middle English ‘Slayn’ meaning to strike or kill. It continued to mean to kill a person or animal in a violent way, and less frequently to mean just general murder. However, it has also begun to develop a less formal meaning of ‘to greatly impress or amuse someone’ , and has continued to this development as more recently it has been used as a compliment to someone who looks nice e.g. ‘Damn girl, you slayin’. This is an example of amelioration, as it has grown to become much more positive than its original meaning. However prescriptivists could also argue that this is an example of the crumbling castle view. The word has strayed away from its original meaning to something less serious, and therefore is an example of language ‘crumbling’. You could also say that it is an example of the infectious disease model. The use of ‘slay’ and ‘slaying’ in a more positive context has been passed on as people want to use the newer meaning to fit in, and be seen using it as it increases in popularity and usage.




The word ‘cool’ is an example of the fact that the world of language is evolving and changing all the time. Some words and phrases catch on and become used daily and others don’t last as long and die out rather quickly. Cool is used as a synonym for almost anything good, Music can be cool and restaurants can be cool. The word has become overused and the context it is frequently used in changes a lot from time to time. At first the word cool was associated with temperature, by the 16th century the term had evolved to describe not just the atmosphere, but also an internal state of calm, almost icy composure. By the late 1800s it had absorbed the meaning of a variety of things that it is still used for today. Calling an unpleasant note “sour” suggests that it makes you wince, as would a tart taste. These links make sensory metaphors easier to retrieve from memory. As an attempt to control the English language, this may be criticised by George Orwell for trying to shape and refine the way that our minds are naturally programmed to speak and communicate.

The word ‘cool’ highlights how certain vocabulary stands the test of time whilst others don’t. Language is constantly evolving, and words come in and out of use all the time, for example ‘spiffy’ was popular in the 1940’s whereas ‘dope’ is popular today. The reason ‘cool’ is still being used as a synonym for good, it is believed, is because it is a sensory metaphor. Because of the way the human brain works, words that play on our senses are more memorable and are therefore more likely to be used in the mainstream. For example ‘sharp increase’ is preferred over ‘sudden increase’ as the adjective ‘sharp’ relates to pain. It highlights the facts that, although social phenomena can bring words into use, some words will persist. It raises questions about which phrases will survive; will ‘she’s hot’ outlive ‘she’s attractive’ because ‘hot’ plays on our senses. It links to Jean Aichinson’s ‘damp spoon’ parody: that language change occurs because people are lazy and are looking for convenient ways to convey their thoughts. Sensory metaphors such as ‘cool’ and ‘cold hearted’ on the other hand could be seen as creative ways of conveying thoughts, however we know that language change is neither positive nor negative and it neither improves or deteriorates our vocabularies; it is simply inevitable.



Being described as ‘basic’ has become the ‘diss of the year’ thanks to Kate moss who thrives off the idea of being different. ‘Basic’ is being thrown around as an insult to people, Kate Moss called an airline pilot a ‘basic bitch’ as she carried a bottle of vodka in her bag. The insult Moss lobbed at the pilot was fired as she was escorted from the plane. She called her a “basic bitch”, and overnight a cult, hitherto underground term of abuse hit the mainstream. What the rise of basic as an insult tells us about 2015 is how labyrinthine the rulebook of cultural engagement has become. Being ‘basic’ involves drinking pumpkin spice latte’s for instance and instagramming your brunch everyday as you sit down to eat it. The duck face that people seem to pull in pictures is basic, uploading inspirational quotes onto your social media page is basic. The key question at the end of 2015, of course, is whether basic is still a thing. Basic is nasty when it is used as a put-down to women who dare to think themselves special but can still be pretty satisfying as a way to call out a man who is pleased with himself for no obvious reason. Books and articles have been published revolving the headline ’27 signs you’re dating a basic bitch’.



There are issues with using euphemisms for words which perpetuate negative stereotypes. People may prefer to use words such as ‘curvy’ or ‘big boned’ instead of the word ‘fat’ as fat perpetuates a negative stereotype. However in this article it suggests that simply embracing and reclaiming the word ‘fat’ instead of avoiding the issue using euphemistic language is for the best. Orwell would have taken issue with euphemistic language as it could be seen as an attempt to obfuscate and mislead people, instead of addressing the real issues. However, it became popular within the government to use euphemism in order to prevent uproar and criticism. For example the Ministry of Defence uses the word ‘collateral damage’ or ‘civilian casualties’ which masks the reality of war, and depreciates murder to a simple ‘side-effect’. On the other hand, newspapers have described the refugees seeking new lives in the UK as ‘hoardes’ and ‘swarms’ conjuring images of vermin ‘infecting’ our country, and helping to rile up hatred for the refugees, instead of portraying them simply as people in need of refuge. This shows that the language used can really affect the public’s view on issues and using euphemisms or dysphemisms to describe things obfuscates the real picture.


This is a word which is causing a lot of “problems” of late. The problem extends from the meaning of the word “interested”, which has two different meanings the first being “being personally involved in” – as in “I am an interested party in this dispute.” Which was the first meaning, extending back to the fifteenth century. The second meaning is “showing or feeling curiosity about something” – the more modern meaning and the more commonly used meaning in our time. Some linguists would argue that this causes problems of ambiguity as, if “disinterested” is in some way the opposite in meaning to “interested” should it mean “impartial, not having any personal involvement” or “bored, feeling little or no interest or curiosity”? These linguists are generally prescriptivists and would believe that the ‘correct’ meaning is the former ‘not having any involvement’. Max Muller 1922 states ‘the history of all the Aryan languages is nothing but a gradual process of decay’, which would suggest there was once a high watermark of language – in this case, the first use of the word- which has since gotten worse due to what Atchison would parody as the ‘crumbling castle’ theory. However this argument is flawed because it implies that the English Language has been gradually built up into an impressive network which had, at some unspecified time, a maximum splendor and grandness about it. But the English language has never had such a time of perfection – it has come about from centuries of gradual development through usage. To continue the metaphor, the castle has never been fully constructed and will never be so because the building process never stops, and therefore it is not plausible to say that the first meaning of ‘disinterested’ is the ‘correct’ meaning purely because it was the former, more learned and formal style of English.  The other problem with this view is the implication that existing rules and systems within languages are preferable to new and changing ones. Flexibility in the development of language is its very strength- its ability to reflect and cope with changing social circumstances. Some linguists would argue that ambiguity and confusion are a distinct threat with these terms, however the two meanings of “interested”, which coexisted for centuries never caused confusion, so why should two meanings for “disinterested”? Wilhelm von Humboldt 1836, a descriptivist said ‘there can never be a true standstill in language… by nature it is a continuous process of development’ which would suggest that the flexibility and gymnastic like nature of language is a positive thing, as Aitchison would say ‘variety is the spice of linguistic life’. Isn’t the English Language a better place for having two ways of expressing how “bored and lacking in interest” one is? Isn’t there shades of meaning here which can be used to communicate subtle differences, with “disinterest” being a stronger form of “uninterested?”


This word now means a little more than “very bad” and would often be used in similar sentences to “that film was truly awful’. Some linguists would argue that this suggests our language has been robbed of something, their argument being: what are we to say when we truly are in awe of something? Can we still say that this thing which inspires fear, dread, terror or awe is truly “awful”? This is a clear example of weakening or semantic bleaching, where the meaning in our language is being sucked out of it, and we are left with a whole number of words that mean more or less the same thing. This is something Censor talks about when he says ‘these are inexcusable vulgarisms…don’t say transpire when you mean occur’ suggesting that using the term awful to mean something different is what he describes as a ‘vulgarism’ causing language to degenerate. This can be seen in other words for example the terms – “fantastic”, “fabulous”, “incredible”, “brilliant” and “amazing” which have all have come to mean “very good” however their previous denotations as well as any strong and dramatic connotations have since been lost – bleached out of our language, again another argument as evidence for our language degenerating. However Ferdinand de Saussure 1915 would say that ‘time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law’ where he appears to accept that the word ‘awful’ has changed, as well as many other words, but does not see this as evidence of degenerating but as progression. Again, this is something Aitchison would agree with as she says ‘variety is the key to language change’ and that correct English is as hard to define then as it is now.



The word friend has undergone a functional shift from a noun to a verb in recent years. The verb ‘to befriend’, which is of the same meaning, has been around for much longer, the earliest records of the word stem from around the year 1200. However, due to the influence of social media and the omission of the prefix be- when wishing to become friends with someone online, the noun ‘friend’ has become a verb on its own, also followed by words such as friended and friending. This concept of clipping the word to make it shorter would potentially be seen as ‘lazy’ to a prescriptivist who would argue that the use of English is becoming sloppy. Jean Aitcheson uses the parody of the ‘damp spoon’ to poke fun at this view as it equates the feeling of leaving a damp spoon in a sugar bowl with language changes such as this.



The word ‘Bae’ has recently become a part of our vocabulary over the last couple of years. It seemed to appear out of nowhere on social media sites such as twitter and Instagram. The word itself is seen as a term of endearment to address or refer to one’s romantic partner. What the word actually stands for has been a topic of confusion for some as it is argued to have two different interpretations. Many websites, including that of popular online slang dictionary ‘Urban dictionary’, claim the word is a backronym meaning ‘before anyone else’. However, other sources have claimed that the word is a shorter version of the words ‘babe’ and ‘baby’.  Despite this word seeming to become popular in 2013/2014 the word has been supposedly traced back to rap songs produced in 2005. The word is now used in a more sarcastic and ironic way on the internet as is evident through the various ‘memes’ that have appeared online. Prescriptivists such as Guy Deutscher may see this as a process of pejoration of the word baby, which is a process of something worsening or deteriorating. This is also what Jean Aitcheson would describe as a ‘crumbling castle’ approach which pokes fun at this prescriptivist idea of language being something that is almost sacred and is at risk of becoming damaged or getting worse and that it should be preserved, like a crumbling castle.




The word gay was once considered to mean ‘happy’, and was originally associated with joy, light-heartedness and being carefree. However, since then the word has evolved to mean homosexual (more commonly referred to when talking about men). The word now not only means ‘homosexual’ but, through the evolution of the word, negative connotations have been attached to being ‘gay’. Those who are homophobic often refer to being ‘gay’ as a bad thing, and use it as a derogatory term. Many also use the word ‘gay’ as a petty insult; they don’t use it to refer to a homosexual but to any person- saying that something is ‘gay’ has connotations of being weak, soppy or cheesy. Take the word ‘cool’ as well; ‘cool’ has been used since the 16th century and was originally associated with temperature. However, since then, it has evolved to describe not just the atmosphere, but also an internal state of calm, almost icy composure. The word ‘cool’ has also been adopted to be an affirmation; instead of saying ‘okay’ or ‘alright’, a person can respond with ‘cool’ and it can have the same meaning. The evolution of the meaning of words can be seen in the fact that, by the late 1800s ‘cool’ began to signify style and hipness; cool can be used as a synonym for almost anything good. Music can be cool and restaurants can be cool. Every so often even a minivan seems cool. It could be noted, though, that not all words and phrases persist. In the 1940s, the word ‘cool’ would’ve been replaced by the word “spiffy.” , though the term has not persisted or carried on into modern day language. In the 1950s, people might say you looked “swell.” But instead, these days, teenagers might say you’re “on fleek.” or ‘looking peng’. What was once “awesome” is now “cool” or ‘that’s mint’. Tell someone today that they look spiffy and people will think you’re strange for using such language in a modern society.


The noun hashtag, is a word or phrase which starts with a hash (#) and is commonly used on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram, therefore it originated between 2005 and 2010 as this is when these sites would have become more popular.  It often states a key word or a topic of interest. Hashtag also broadened as it became a verb, which describes when a person makes a hashtag for example ‘hash tagging’. The noun hashtag is a compound of the noun hash and tag, it could be argued that this noun was created as the demand for technology increased and there for the developments in language took place accordingly. Wilhelm von Humboldt said that language can’t standstill and it is constantly changing, as technology is changing and improving all the time, the language we use has to develop alongside that. The infectious disease assumption (parody) by Jean Aitchison could imply that once one person started to use it on a social media site everyone did and the trend started there. However, social media sites like Twitter use the hashtag so that users can find information about a particular thing very quickly as all tweets with a particular hashtag are grouped together, therefore, it could be argued that it is also used for convenience.


TV is an acronym for the noun television. People often use this TV instead of the elongated word, television which comes from the French word television. Lynn Truss is a theorist which would be against the idea of using the acronym TV rather than television as she thinks people (especially the younger generation) are using it more because they are lazy and ignorant, which fits the parody by Jean Aitchison, the damp spoon syndrome of people being lazy and therefore using clippings of words or acronyms. A reason as to why TV is becoming increasingly popular could because it is due to the increase in popularity of televisions and technology. TV is becoming more well-known and therefore many people may opt to use the acronym, also in a household children may use the acronym more as it is something they hear by their family and friends, which could fit the parody by Jean Aitchison of the infectious disease. However not everyone uses the noun TV, older generations may still use television as it is what they are used to saying.



Honey was used to refer to a sweet, sticky yellowish-brown fluid made by bees and other insects from nectar collected from flowers. However, there has been a semantic shift and narrowing as it no longer means that but now used as an affectionate or familiar term of address as to a child or romantic partner, although can be offensive when used to strangers, casual acquaintances as it is a very informal term. This could be a social change again because it is a slang word, however it is not a recent slang word as it has been used for a number of decades now. This could have been started by men’s attitude to women at a time when women had lower status and weren’t seen as equals but more as wives and sex objects and therefore men referred to them as ‘honey’ because this demonstrates the type of relationship the male may have with the female. However over the years it has broadened to become a general term of endearment as well to refer to both men and women. This may have come about also through the more equal status of men and women in recent years. Similar to this, is the word ‘Sweet’ which is a small shaped piece of confectionery made with sugar. However, people tend to use it as an expression to show or explain how awesome/good something is (semantic change). This can be referred to the crumbling castle theory because this term isn’t very popular as people prefer to use the word to Sweetie instead which means dear, darling or beloved, which is a term more frequently used by the older generation.



Richard Nordquist is an English professor at the University of Georgia. He argues that the word ‘literally’ is “the most misused word in the [English] language”.

Other words which are commonly misused include:

  • ‘inflammable’ which people often think is synonymous with ‘non-flammable’, but is actually a synonym of ‘flammable
  • ‘disinterested’ which people often think is synonymous with ‘uninterested’, as in ‘not interested’, but actually means ‘unbiased’ or ‘impartial’


The original meaning of ‘literally’ is “in a literal way or sense”. Alternatively, it can mean “figuratively” although this is often deemed to be pretentious.

Now, people use it to exaggerate or stress a particular point – this is “to the fury of language purists”

Martha Gill, a write for the Guardian, seeks to mock the descriptivist approach to language change, using the word ‘literally’ as an example. Her stance of prescriptivism asks: “Did we, as genuinely hundreds of people are tweeting, just break the English language?”

The mocking descriptivist counterpart questions: “Or did we, as totally tens of bloggers are writing, prove that the English language is a beautiful, organic creature that is forever slipping out of our control?”

Gill argues that “we have done something mildly annoying… its [literally] development from knock-kneed, single-purpose utterance, to swan-like dual-purpose term, has reached that awkward stage. It is neither one nor the other, and it can’t do anything right.”

She argues that “‘Literally’ has been mainstream shorthand for ‘talking like a teenage girl’ for a decade – you’re not going to get rid of that reference without violent verbal acrobatics.”

This can be related to Jean Aitcheson’s parodying theory of the ‘damp spoon’: that language use is caused by laziness and sloppiness, before being spread like an ‘infectious disease’ amongst the speakers of a language.

In the public eye, there has been outcry on several occasions when ‘literally’ has been used ‘incorrectly’.

Football pundit Jamie Redknapp once said that Wayne Rooney was playing so well he was “literally on fire”, which provoked attitudes of snobbery, whilst many use the word as a definitive intelligence measure. (http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2012/jan/29/literally-a-much-misused-word)

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg claimed that low-rate taxpayers were “literally living in a different galaxy”.

Dictionary companies document the words that people are (not) using and to compile them into a dictionary, as described by senior Oxford English Dictionary (OED) editor Fiona McPherson, who states that “our job is to describe the language people are using”.

Recent words that have been added to the dictionary due to popular usage include ‘selfie’ and

‘Misuse’ has become so common that the OED has altered the definition of ‘literally’ to say that it can be “used for emphasis rather than being actually true” e.g. ‘We were literally killing ourselves laughing’.

“Even when someone does use the word correctly, (“he’s literally the prime minister”), it is often such a surprise to the listener that the conversation halts anyway – prompting something like “er, yes. You’re right. He literally is” to emphasise just how much they have acknowledged your traditional use of language.”

“So there really is not much we can do with the word “literally”, other than avoid it completely. At the moment it is irredeemable.”



The term ‘bimbo’ originates from the Italian word “bambino”, which means ‘male baby’ or ‘young male child’. Bimbo originally meant ‘fellow’, ‘chap’ or ‘one of the boys’ in theatrical circles

By the 20th century, it had come to mean a ‘stupid, inconsequential man or contemptible person’.

Composer Frank Crumit recorded ‘My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle’, in which the term ‘bimbo’ is used to describe an island girl of questionable virtue.

The 1929 silent film Desert Nights describes a wealthy female crook as a ‘bimbo’ and in The Broadway Melody, an angry Bessie Love calls a chorus girl a ‘bimbo’.

The first use of its female meaning cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1929, from the scholarly journal American Speech, where the definition was given simply as ‘a woman’.

In 1920s America, however, Variety magazine the term was used to describe ‘an immoral woman or ‘floozie’.

However, so long as a language is ‘alive’, it continues to change and in 1980s America, there were a series of political scandals, through which other versions appeared, such as ‘bimbette’ – using the common ‘-ette’ suffix to signify a female.
In addition, there have also been a couple of linguistic ‘backformations’ where a word reverts to its original meaning; a male equivalent term for ‘bimbo’ has now been coined in the form of ‘himbo’ and ‘mimbo’.



Like (verb to noun):

“Look how many likes my Insta has!”

With the notable increasing use of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, an online language has been developed in order to convey ideas of the popularity and overall credibility of your social account. One example is the nominalisation of the verb “like” which has been adopted by social media developers as an option for users to express their liking or approval of posts. Evolving technology means evolving language and so, due to the popularity of social media, awareness of online language is inevitable, as seen with the acronym “lol”. James Milroy, a descriptivist who also tackles the idea that spoken language is without variety as well as other things, would perhaps use this as a counter argument against presciptivists who do believe that there once was a “Golden Age” in English Language in saying that English lexicon is always developing with a developing society and so a “Golden Age” cannot truly be labelled to a specific time period seeing that language continuously undergoes change.


The noun ‘lab’ came about in the late 19th century and is an abbreviation of the older, more formal term, ‘laboratory’ that derived from medieval Latin in the form of ‘laboratorium’, from Latin laborare ‘to labour’. More interestingly, if we look at the etymologies of both nouns, we can see a distinct correlation that has occurred, specifically from the 1950’s onwards. The abbreviated term ‘lab’ becomes seriously recognised in the 1950’s and its use begins to increase steeply. On the other hand, ‘laboratory’ reaches a steady increase in the 1950’s and as time passes and the recognition of ‘lab’ increases, the use of ‘laboratory’ dramatically decreases. Many descriptivists opposed prescirptive views, in particular Jean Aitchison, who mocked prescriptivist views and came up with three  catogories which presents their opinions in a taunted light. They consisted of: the Damp Spoon Syndrome, the Crumbling Castle view and the Infectious Disease assumption. Aitchison would have placed the ‘lab’ case in the Damp Spoon Syndrome catergory which states that linguists such as Lynn Truss believe that new generations are growing increasingly lazier, ignorant and look for shortcuts while articulating, similarly to how placing a damp spoon into a sugar bowl would have been seen as lazy and inappropriate. However, descriptivists would argue that this is a case of efficiency rather than laziness; in which aim to communicate with others as efficiently as possible to convey ideas and opinions quicker.














The word ‘literally’ means ‘in a literal or strict way; actually’ and is the oxymoron of the word “figuratively” which means “in a metaphorical or exaggerated sense”. However, popular use of the word “literally” to give emphasis on something or to mean “figuratively” has caused the literal meaning of literally to change. Since 1903 the secondary definition has been listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Saying “it’s literally impossible” is to the dislike of many. Some prescriptivists view this as an incorrect use of the word and this view is similar to the view Lynne Truss would have. In her book she describes how incorrect use of punctuation is sloppy and can cause miscommunication. For instance “a woman, with out her man, is nothing.” Or “a woman: without her, man is nothing.”  This is similar to the misuse of the word literal, which Truss would view as uneducated and misleading.  On the other hand, many people have a descriptive stance and believe that language change has neither a positive or negative effect on language change, and they would see the broadening of the meaning for “literally” as neither an improvement nor a deterioration. For instance James Milroy will argue that there was no golden age of language, therefore any changes to language do not make it any better or worse. Also, there are often reasons for words to come in and out of popular use. For example words such as “practically” and “virtually” all seem to be used interchangeable along with “literally”. The use of the word “practically” became used widely around the late 1800’s and I think this may have been due to the scientific and technological advances of the time causing things to be described as “practical”.



The word artificial once used to describe something which was ‘full of artistic and technical skill’ but it’s meaning has undergone peroration and now means ‘man made’ or ‘insincere’. Due to advances in society, this word now has many negative connotations and has come to describe things which are ‘fake’ and ‘unnatural’. For instance advances in health and beauty treatments have brought about the use of ‘artificial’ to describe unnatural methods in a negative way. Similarly, improvement in scientific knowledge and health consciousness has seen the term “ artificial colours and flavours” brand the adjective “artificial” as a negative one. To some this change is deemed an improvement to our language. For instance Guy Deutcher would argue that this change in meaning is like ironing out any creases in language and aiding our communication. To other prescriptivists though, this is pulling language further from its once perfect state, and they would argue that it is incorrect to change the meaning. However, for a descriptivist like Jean Aitcheson this change would be seen to have beneficial or detrimental affect upon language.







The word Martyr, has taken somewhat of a semantic shift over the last century with its original meaning of “one who kills or is killed for his/her religious belief”. The reason for this, as it is used now as a way for sugar-coating killings that occur in atrocities. It is what George Orwell called Bureaucratic Doublespeak – the distortion, changing or switching of words to make an unpleasant, tricky or otherwise negative situation not sound as awful. In the case of “martyr” it is a word used by writers and editors of newspapers as a way of hiding a murderer who kills an innocent child, old man, taxi driver so on. In terms of language, the word is a form of pejoration, as the word carries a negative undertone as it is widely used in today’s media when a suicide bombing occurs. This is similar to the term “collateral damage” which is also used when referring to the innocent lives taken during these crimes. This is an example of a term obfuscating and misleading society as their definition of a martyr skewed.




Having only turned 25 years of age, the word “LOL” is widely used and is second nature to most of us now whether we are texting or in natural conversation. Originally LOL was an acronym meaning an individual taking the action of “laughing out loud” but has taken a shift a lot recently. With its widespread use, it has become quite a common thing nowadays to actually say “lol” when something is funny rather than actually laughing out loud. At the time of writing, the most recent use of the term LOL occurred on Twitter maybe 16 seconds ago about an amusing factoid she’s seen. People have been trying to get acronyms into the dictionary for a long time now, but none has caught on in the same way as “lol”. Jean Aitcheson parodied this notion of catching as “infectious disease” that a word is caught for no apparent reason but that one person used it, meaning another will also use it. This isn’t true of course, and what has happened is that text talk has found its way into the English Language due to the increased use of social media.






The use of a subordinate clause as a whole utterance is a lexical change, as one adjusts the brevity of a sentence in order to transmit concise and expressive communication. This subordinate clause usage establishes an unspoken understanding between the virtual author and readers in that the reader automatically empathises because of the compulsion for the exchange to be complete, as it is lacking lexically. Theorists such as Robert Lowthe would object to syntactic deviations as they would disrupt the ‘fluency’ of the language as they are incomplete sentences, however such prescriptivism does not take into consideration the changing requirements of communication; new speech platforms like the internet allow for such language change as more people have more opportunity to record language change and so new trends arise.






The semantic change of the noun “girl” has broadened its meaning; that is to say, females of all ages are now frequently referred to as children. This is a pejorative shift as it infantilises women, making them seem less autonomous; it is simultaneously considered an endearing expression, highlighting adults’ youth (this being paramount to a woman’s appeal in today’s society), which is an amelioration. The language change theorist Jean Aitcheson would have described this linguistic change with her parody of infectious disease, whereby speakers of a language adopt and blindly transmit new variations of the English language as a misunderstanding of what it defines; she is, however, a descriptivist, and so views such language change from an objective perspective, meaning that it is perceived as neither positive nor negative. The ‘infectious disease’ parody as a genuine opinion would rely on the supposition that dictionaries are selective as opposed to commensurate to the circulation of lexis by speakers of a language; that is, the semantics are shifted because of the speakers using the noun “girl” in such a way, which is not necessarily incorrect as they are conveying their meaning sufficiently, and so should such usage become historically popular, dictionary compilers would have to acknowledge such a usage, making the ‘disease’ a nonexistent malady.



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