Language Change Trends

In the article “Post-Truth”, words are described as “contenders for the title” which shows that inventing new words is a very positive thing and by extension, language change as well. This links to the work of Jean Aitcheson when she states that language change is, to some people, like an “infectious disease”. Clearly language change cannot be an “infectious disease” if new words are being put up for an award.

Language is a constantly ever-changing factor and it depends on the era, as to how popular words are, as different events affect how often words are used; we, as humans, adapt our need for words according to the current events transpiring at the time. For example, “post-truth” was first used in 1992; however it was not until this year that it became popular because we needed “post-truth” to describe the world we have arguably been shown to live in since the election of Trump, and Brexit. “Brexit” is another example of this lexical change as we have amalgamated the words “Britain” and “exit”. Before the Brexit phenomenon, this word would never have been invented since we had no need for it, however now it has become incredibly popular and has developed into a “massive growth”, if we look at the work of Aitcheson. This relates again to the “infectious disease” idea put forward by Aitcheson in that this word has “spread like wildfire” and become, to us, normality in our everyday language.

In time, when all the talk of Brexit has died down, and the repercussions have settled in, this word will die out and become a word we no longer use; and in turn, according to the current events of that future era, newer words will be thought of and they will become natural to us as well. This relates to the work of Guy Deutscher in his essay “A Reef of Dead Metaphors” in which he dictates that most of our language was once a metaphor but its metaphorical meaning has died out due to its overuse. For example, “brilliant” used to mean bright and shiny, now it is just another word for good. This metaphor will eventually die out completely and the word “brilliant” will no longer be a popular word to use, if it is used at all, and new words for good will take its place. This is the same with “post-truth” as this metaphor, meaning objective fact s are far less influential to public opinion than emotion and personal beliefs, will become a “dead metaphor” and newer words will take its place as usage of the word falls.

snowflakeSlang: the changing face of cool


The occurrence of the ‘of-the-moment’ term ‘twerk’ is a good example of language change in the present day as what was recently a superbly inventive new caption has rapidly changed, in just the 4 years since its birth at the annual MTV music awards in 2013, into an embarrassing attempt to be cool. Slang, commonly known as the language of outsiders or the vulgar tongue begins life as part of a low-level guerrilla warfare stemming from the decadent minds of the youth. Words like ‘hep’ which were once thought to be hip are regularly replaced by similar terms, such as the aforementioned ‘hip’, which then also faces the risk of becoming the embarrassingly square word of tomorrow. What we see in language change is a constant unending churn, rather than a breaking up.

From alright to zap: an A-Z of horrible words
are we engaged in a lexical gang warfare? Do we stick to our own language and aggressively defend it, mark out our territory and avoid the words, meanings and idioms of other gangs? So, if we are all engaged in this warfare that is often considered repulsive and dismal illiteracy why does no one ever win? Maybe we’re not at war? In 1870 Richard Grant White described ‘donate’, which formed from the noun ‘donation’, as “utterly abominable” whereas today this is a well-established, Oxford English Dictionary approved verb. Similarly, ‘irregardless’ is often considered to be wrong by committed pedants as it is a double negative, however this has happened throughout history, for example Samuel Johnson previously slated the use of ‘irresistless’ for the same reasons. The portmanteau word that is ‘guesstimate’ was again ridiculed by the naysayers, so the question that stands is: is ‘like’ to be, like, deplored?

Grotesque wasn’t always an insult

Nowadays, the meaning of grotesque is fairly clear to us – anything repulsive or hideous, often to the point of comedy, applicable to both the abstract and the concrete. But the word has gone through its fair share of semantic changes over the years, to the point where in its original form it was never even an insult in the first place. The word has its origins in Italy, when several artists were commissioned to paint the chambers of Nero’s Golden House in the early 16th century. As they could only be accessed from above, the chambers were referred to as ‘grotte’, the Italian for caves and cellars. ‘Grotte’ can trace its origins all the way back to Latin and Greek. The next evolution of the term was to refer to the imitations of the paintings on the chambers, which were referred to as ‘grottesco’, becoming popular in Italy. These subjects of these ‘grottesco’ paintings were often biblical and mythical creatures of all kinds. The English equivalent of the word had found its way into the vernacular by 1667, the year in which Milton used it in Paradise Lost to describe obstructive greenery. In the 18th century, ‘grotesque characters’ were often advertised as entertainment. The word had by now evolved to mean any physical object that was ugly. It was in the 20th century that the word eventually evolved past physical appearance to be applicable to just about anything. In 1913, the Sunday Times used it to express its offense that suffragettes had been compared to historic heroes – one of its most famous uses was when Neil Kinnock described the Militant Tendency as ‘grotesque chaos’, although that phrase actually originally appeared in the 60s in a Times book review. Regardless of who used it first, in then new pejorative sense, the meaning of the word has come a long way from the original ‘grotte’, and yet its evolution makes perfect sense.

The Language of the 1920s: More Than the Bee’s Knees

Language change doesn’t just appear out of nowhere – we don’t speak in a vacuum, and as society changes so does language. The 1920s are a particular example of a time of social upheaval that brought an onslaught of new vocabulary. As the population got wealthier and the standard of living increased, so did the number of cars – bringing along with them a variety of car-related idioms that have entered our everyday lexicon, such as ‘step on it’ and ‘back-seat driver’.

‘Chaplinesque’ and ‘Valentino’ also entered our vocabularies in the 1920s as the film industry exploded, named after the actors who characterized particular archetypes. Pop culture also leant us new phrases – the film adaptation of the novel It lead to its star, Clara Bow, being referred to as the ‘It Girl’ by the press. As society became increasingly liberal, new terms were invented to reflect new concepts – ‘blind date’ for going on a date with somebody one has never met before, ‘French kiss’ out of an association between French culture and love and sexuality, and ‘two-timing’ for cheating.

Even the word ‘flapper’ didn’t just appear out of nowhere. There are two suggested origins for the word – some think it comes from the term for a young bird first trying its wings, others from the 17th century term flap meaning ‘young woman of loose character’. The word ‘flapper’ even evolved over the course of the 1920s, eventually coming to mean any young adult female worker, causing controversy when the term was used in relation to decreasing the female voting age in the UK to 21 after an article referred to them as ‘flappers’, provoking a strong response from Lady Astor. The creation of new words was even deliberately encouraged – a US competition was held to coin a word to characterize someone who drinks illegally, eventually settling on ‘scofflaw’. ‘Scofflaw’ has now evolved to anyone who habitually violates the law. All these words that have entered our everyday vernacular dating back to the 1920s go to show the evolution of language – what starts as a simple pop cultural reference or a specific metaphor can slowly evolve into an everyday idiom that quickly loses the connotations of its origins.

Bad language for nasty women (and other gendered insults)

‘Nasty’ is a word that in the past had no gender-biased connotations attached to it and was simply used as a description for something that was “horrible” or to someone who was “morally indecent”. However, as the use of this word has increased in years gone by, gender biased slurs are becoming more frequent as both sex wants to play to these stereotypes and fit in with the characteristics and behaviour that have been assigned to a particular group of people – mainly social reasons cause this to happen. The use of this word to describe women by the recently elected President of the United States, Donald Trump, encouraged women to speak out as the use of this word has been taken as an attack on their gender. A ‘nasty man’ means what it says: a man who is horrible, but a ‘nasty woman’ has taken on more meanings other than ‘horrible’. Because it’s attached to ‘woman’, it’s a reflection on their behaviour in social situations – hate speech like this has been publicised by Trump and is the reason for current conflict in society. The change in meaning can be supported by Aitcheson’s point that “changes don’t occur unless they have some type of prestige” and that “they’re a marker of group membership” as now if you hear the word ‘nasty’ being used to describe a woman, you can assume that the accuser’s loyalties lie with Trump, as the hate speech he promotes is being reflected in their speech.

Why we need to lose biased words like ‘mistress’ for good

Language used by media outlets is increasingly being manipulated to suggest that women are in the wrong, particularly through the use of the word ‘mistress’ in this instance, a term assigned to a woman who is in a relationship with a married man or with a man who has a significant other. Some people have called for media outlets to stop using certain words that don’t have male/female counterparts and place women in a negative light e.g. ‘mistress’ places emphasis on the fact that women are supposedly to blame for an affair as you never hear of a derogatory term being used for the male in the affair; there is no such word as a ‘male mistress’ or anything of the sort in language. ‘Female’ associated words are used as insults for males; being called a ‘bitch’ or other common female-related terms by a male to another male insinuates that the male in question is weak – female terms are generally associated with negative traits such as weakness and being lower than males in a social hierarchy. Gender bias within language has increased in popularity as the media have been given a platform in which headlines and news content are read by so many that it’s bound to be used relatively often and as Aitcheson said, “people tend to conform to the speech habits of those around them” so the use of “gender-assigned” terms such as ‘mistress’ feel like a norm for the general public to use, as they subconsciously adopt these terms from the things they read on a day to day basis.

Why English keeps on like totally changing

“Imagine the process of English language as a moving train” is a good example of language change in action. This meaning that Language change is inevitable and it’s moving too fast for anyone to stop it. Metaphors like this are frequently used by linguists to describe the process of language change such as Jean Aitcheson’s “nature forces humans to weave the language web in a particular way”. Linguistic prescriptivism highlights how language change is an “infectious disease” and that the golden age of English language has passed. However, ideas such as that English language is seen as  “a long-running stage show that needs to be kept fresh” highlights how language change is good and we should broaden our “linguistic wardrobe”.  Moreover, John Mcwhorter defends terms such as “totally” and “like” which have recently occurred regular in our everyday language. The sematic changes of English language is constantly in the spot light of the media as you have prescriptivists complaining about the semantic shift and those who are encouraging language change, “variety is the key”.

British women swear a lot more than men, study reports.

“Apparently, Lady like language is becoming a thing of the past” shows how language is constantly changing. The article by Natalie Gil highlights how women’s language has changed and have now become “Sweary Marys”. In the past, society has deemed women who swear as un-lady like. The article indicates how gender bias is eventually “going to be eroded” as those who believe in lady like language are now classed as idiotic and “fuddy duddies”.

“According to studies from the early 1990s, men used ‘f***’ 1,000 times out of every million words they said; while women said it 167 times.” However, “By 2014…increasing their use of the word to 546 times per million words, while men’s use of it almost halved to 540 times per million words.” This study highlights how men and women have accommodated each other’s speech as society has become more equal. The article by Natalia Gil demonstrates that women have become “sweary Marys” and those disagreeing with this change are classed as “fuddy duddies”. Jean Aitcheson highlights that “variety is the key” and therefore the accommodation of men and women’s speech is a step forward.

‘Words subject to change’

‘Awful’ is a good example of how language is constantly changing as its current meaning is ‘very bad’ or unpleasant’ or it is also used to emphasize the extent of something, for example, ‘I have made an awful fool of myself’. However, it’s origins see it as ‘awe-ful’ meaning 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. This would support Peter Trudgill’s theory as it shows that language change cannot be stopped and it isn’t 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 know about its original meaning.

‘Basic’: The biggest insult of 2015

The term ‘basic bitch’ become widely used over night when the model Kate Moss called an airline pilot a ‘basic bitch’. This shows how language is so easily influenced and how people will start using words just because it is ‘on trend’ and everyone is using it or a celebrity is. If you call someone ‘basic’ it means that they pride themselves on possessions and preferences that they consider to be cool or aspirational, but which are actually commonplace or obvious. Being basic is liking what is typical to like such as drinking pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks in autumn and instagramming your brunch. A few years ago, someone who was 6 months behind the trends would be called ‘naff’, however nowadays with social media, it is almost impossible to be behind. So therefore calling someone ‘basic’ is almost the alternative as it puts down someone who prides themselves on being on trend.

‘OMG’ was first used 100 years ago

 

“OMG,” a modern day initialism for “Oh my god,” is another example of how language has changed throughout the ages. Simon Herobrin, contrary to many authors such as Lynne Truss, Simon Heffer and NM Gwynne (who believe language is going to the dogs), has a view which tells people they needn’t be afraid of language change and be disgusted by the way in which language is “worsening,” as time goes on. A guardian review of a book of his states that he is “ at his best when illustrating how modern usages that horrifies linguistic purists in fact have deep historical roots.” The modern usage of course is OMG, an idiomatic exclamation to express surprise or disbelief whilst also taking the lord’s name in vain. It was originally used in 1917 by a septuagenarian naval hero, admiral of the fleet Lord Fisher. The word may be seen as childish and informal, it’s reputation possibly exacerbated by how frequently it is used in text speak. its long history shows that modern people’s prejudice against new words is quite misdirected at times.

 

Words You Probably Didn’t Know Were Invented By Shakespeare

Shakespeare, known for his linguistic inventiveness, was a catalyst for language change himself-one of his favourite tricks was taking pre-existing words and reusing them as different parts of speech, a process variously known as “semantic conversion,” “zero-derivation,” or “anthimeria.” One such example of Shakespeare’s handiness is with the word “moon.” Using it to mean “to expose one’s backsides,” dates back to the 1960s but long before that it had meant “to move listlessly, to pass your time idly, or to daydream,” likely derivative from the same root as words like moonstruck and lunatic, referring to the idea that the moon can have deranging effects on people. But today, poeple can still be said to “moon about” as well as to “pull a moonie”. lol.

Assad

There Should Be a Word for That!

Our language is constantly mutating and evolving: this phenomenon is best seen in action online as our emerging technological needs and activities pave the way for new words like “selfie” or the functional shift of everyday words like “friend” or “like”. The creation of new words like “selfie” may annoy older generations with its associations of vanity and arrogance but linguistically it’s great to show just how quickly new words catch on when there’s a gap in the market for something like it. “Selfie” was born from the truncation of the phrase “self portrait”, a phrase a little too formal for online contexts such as Facebook and Instagram, and so the phrase was shortened and a diminutive was added to make it sound snappier and comfortably informal. The verb “to friend” and the noun “like” were formed out of a similar demand for such words to describe a specific new thing and discredit the criticisms of the English language being a ‘crumbling castle’ as it shows instead that the ‘castle of language’, if there ever was one lovingly constructed, which there obviously wasn’t, is simply continuously being built upon with new inventions to meet new demands. it is a castle that will never be built, built by millions of people, but none of them working together. Some castle! lol.

Heather R

Post Truth & Aitcheson

In the article “Post-Truth”, words are described as “contenders for the title” which shows that inventing new words is a very positive thing and by extension, language change as well. This links to the work of Jean Aitcheson when she states that language change is, to some people, like an “infectious disease”. Clearly language change cannot be an “infectious disease” if new words are being put up for an award.

Language is a constantly ever-changing factor and it depends on the era, as to how popular words are, as different events affect how often words are used; we, as humans, adapt our need for words according to the current events transpiring at the time. For example, “post-truth” was first used in 1992; however it was not until this year that it became popular because we needed “post-truth” to describe the world we have arguably been shown to live in since the election of Trump, and Brexit. “Brexit” is another example of this lexical change as we have amalgamated the words “Britain” and “exit”. Before the Brexit phenomenon, this word would never have been invented since we had no need for it, however now it has become incredibly popular and has developed into a “massive growth”, if we look at the work of Aitcheson. This relates again to the “infectious disease” idea put forward by Aitcheson in that this word has “spread like wildfire” and become, to us, normality in our everyday language.

In time, when all the talk of Brexit has died down, and the repercussions have settled in, this word will die out and become a word we no longer use; and in turn, according to the current events of that future era, newer words will be thought of and they will become natural to us as well. This relates to the work of Guy Deutscher in his essay “A Reef of Dead Metaphors” in which he dictates that most of our language was once a metaphor but its metaphorical meaning has died out due to its overuse. For example, “brilliant” used to mean bright and shiny, now it is just another word for good. This metaphor will eventually die out completely and the word “brilliant” will no longer be a popular word to use, if it is used at all, and new words for good will take its place. This is the same with “post-truth” as this metaphor, meaning objective fact s are far less influential to public opinion than emotion and personal beliefs, will become a “dead metaphor” and newer words will take its place as usage of the word falls.

Sam G

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