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fundevogel's avatar

With which words do you prefer to scorn common definitions in favor of their old school usage?

Asked by fundevogel (15042 points ) June 8th, 2012

So I’m a language lover…but the sort that mostly embraces it as a living, breathing, evolving thing. That’s part of what makes it so cool. However there are instances where I just can’t let go of the older definitions of words even though they are almost never used any more.

Which forgotten definitions can’t you let go of?

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16 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

I still prefer normality to normalcy . . . (and I wasn’t even alive during the Harding Administration).

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t have any words, but I was a tourist in Scotland when (for the first time) someone asked us if we had an extra fag. It was good to know people kept the real definition alive.

fundevogel's avatar

As far as I’m concerned ‘decimate’ will always mean ‘reduce by ten percent’ and ‘sanguine’ is just a fancy way to say bloody. Roots don’t lie.

Trillian's avatar

I feel that only a living being can be sick, and an object can be hot. So can a person, but only in raised temprature settings, of after strenuous activity.

fundevogel's avatar

You hear that? Electrons must be excited. So saith Trilliathan.

Kardamom's avatar

I preferred it, back in the day, when people said they were downsizing, they meant that they were moving to a smaller home, not that they were about to fire a bunch of people.

King_Pariah's avatar

I gave the simple the simple task of finding a simple.

ucme's avatar

Gay used to mean happy/joyous, now homophobic morons take the word as an insult & a descriptive of all things bad/uncool.

fundevogel's avatar

Queer used to just mean a bit odd as well. I’m down with both definitions but I rarely use the old one to avoid confusion. There’s also “sooth” which is a straight up archaic term for “truth” but it’s a homophone of the more contemporary “soothe”. I really only use that in “forsooth” though so there’s not much risk of mixing the two up.

ucme's avatar

I laugh every time I here my son playing Minecraft online with his pals, he frequently says, “I’ve got wood” Calm down son, it’s only a game.
Wood in this sense being the material with which to build, not the erection that this word sometimes implies.

Blackberry's avatar

When I was a dumb teen, I remember being at a library and seeing Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” on the shelf. For a brief minute, I actually thought this philosopher completed works about the science of gay people. :/

lillycoyote's avatar

I was having trouble with this one; coming up with something off the top of my head. I know there are quite a few because I sometimes find myself upset that I can no longer use a perfectly good word because it means something else now … but I had an issue with this, this morning.

I was writing a little something about my recurring dreams and I have this one that’s sort of about alien invasions though I never see the aliens; their ships just start appearing in they sky and their spacecraft are always huge and crazy looking and I wanted to use the word “fantastic” to describe the spacecraft, in its first and primary meaning:

conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque, based on fantasy : not real, conceived or seemingly conceived by unrestrained fancy, so extreme as to challenge belief

as defined here and here

but I felt like people wouldn’t understand it to mean that, because, unfortunately, at some point, that usage/meaning seems to have fallen completely out of favor and now most people, I think, use it and understand it to mean: excellent, superlative, etc. And its really a shame because none of the synonyms for fantastic quite do the job in my opinion; and English already has plenty of words that mean incredibly great, excellent, wonderful, terrific, etc. Why do we need another one and now leave ourselves with no word meaning exactly what “fantastic” used to and should mean?

It’s very sad!

Symbeline's avatar

I have one that’s in French; écoeurant. This means something disgusting. Like this pile of shit smells écoeurant. It’s a word used to describe nasty stuff, and can also be used against something or someone that completely irritates or bugs you, someone detestable. Spammers are écoeurant.

However, where I live now, this same word is a slang for something extraordinary, great, cool or awesome. If someone is making dinner and it smells good, people might say, in positive light, that it smells écoeurant. It’s a compliment.

I just can’t get used to this, because the original definition always stuck with me. It always kind of seems weird when someone is using that word for something cool, when I always use it for stuff that sucks. If someone tells me my outfit is écoeurant, I almost wanna tell em to go munch on crotch crickets, even though I know that’s not what they mean.

Although I do have to admit that a word meaning one thing and then going to mean pretty much the contrary is kind of intriguing. I wonder how and why this happens.

augustlan's avatar

@Symbeline That’s like the American equivalents, “bad”, and more recently, “sick”. Both terms have come to be used as compliments, the opposite of what they really mean. It’s weird!

Symbeline's avatar

Yeah, like when you say something is sick, as in, it’s great. There’s also wicked. Oh man, evil wizards are so wicked cool! lol

fundevogel's avatar

For some reason “bad” words for me when you flip it’s meaning, but it just sounds weird when “sick” or “wicked” are used as positive terms. Also ill.

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