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Sunny2's avatar

How and why do word meanings change?

Asked by Sunny2 (18768points) January 31st, 2011

Our English (American version) is changing before our very eyes. The word issue , which meant topic, now means problem. Okay, so we added a meaning for the word issue. Can anyone tell me how or why the phrase pushback the date means to move it ahead? This makes no sense to me. I hear it frequently, so it must have some logic for somebody.

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17 Answers

SamIAm's avatar

I say “pushback” because you’re pushing a date to another date. It makes no sense, actually. Hopefully someone will have a real explanation. I am thinking it’s just one of those silly English language things.

woodcutter's avatar

there’s lots of meanings for the word “issue”

Sunny2's avatar

@woodcutter True. It can be a noun or a verb, now that you mention it. I remember when I first heard it used as meaning a problem. It kind of startled me to hear it used that way. Language changing in action.

woodcutter's avatar

pushback makes sense to me. It’s not the date that’s getting pushed back, that day is going to happen when it happens. I think the phrase means to push the event that was scheduled to a later time as in to push it further away, or back. I suppose to say push something forward would mean to change the event to an earlier time than it was first planned, or move it up, closer to the present. Sounds like yuppie speak.

Sunny2's avatar

@woodcutter I hadn’t thought of pushing back meaning pushing away, as in pushing back from the table or the dock. Interesting. I still think it’s confusing, but I won’t fight it so much. I don’t think I’ll ever use it, though. Too confusing.

Zaku's avatar

I work with computers, and they both get used in (annoying corporate administrative aspects of) that context.

I have a guess that “issue” may have gotten that meaning from the expression “to take issue with”.

I think “pushback” (one word, noun) is retarded slang for resisting something (kind of like “talking back”, another annoying phrase, abused by parents and other tyrants).

I would always spell “to push back a date” with two words, never as “pushback”, which seems to me to necessarily be a noun form, not a verb form. The movement is forward on the calendar but it is pushing a deadline away from the current point in time.

There are, of course, many other abuses of English which seem to come from the computer field. I’d say it’s another good reason to favor liberal arts colleges. ;-)

kess's avatar

That is the nature of words frm the beginning… to keep those who trust in it double minded… in a state of confusion.

There is a better way which is before any language and will be after all language….

The way is the understanding of Truth and Life

BarnacleBill's avatar

Pushback as one word means resistance or objections. When we met to to discuss resourcing needs for launching the new product, marketing gave us pushback on meeting the 3/1 date, saying the the schedule was too aggressive. We pushed back the product launch to 7/1, to allow time for market research.

It’s an illusionary thing about time. If you think about schedules as a time line, as you are moving forward with a project, the due dates, which are fixed points, seem to move forward towards you as time progresses. The deadline loomed closer. The deadline hasn’t changed; time has passed.

wilma's avatar

Apparently conservative used to mean something different than it does in today’s world.

JLeslie's avatar

As a language English has one word mean many things, and then add to it words change over time. Look at the word fine: a money penalty, or that you are ok. Plate: a dish, or a way we identify our cars, etc.

I agree push back the date means move to a date further into the future. Are you sure this changed, or is it a regional difference? For instance, I am always sure to say this coming Thursday when I mean two days from today (assuming today is Tuesday) or a week from Thursday if I mean the Thursday coming in 9 days. For me next Thursday is also this coming Thursday, but for many they would think next Thursday is a week from this Thursday. I don’t get caught up in what is more correct, I just do my best to use language to clarify, and ask questions to be sure I understand what the other person means.

tranquilsea's avatar

Language needs to be an ever changing thing to deal with our ever changing world. Any language that that stops changing simply ceases to be.

Sunny2's avatar

Thanks, all, for answering. I just remembered hearing, many years ago, someone tracing the change of meaning of the word: shambles. I think I remember his saying that the original meaning was a table which gradually morphed into a particular kitchen table used to cut meat. Around Shakespeare’s time a shambles was a butcher shop. Now It’s your kid’s room. (Unless you were blessed with a neatnik.) I think many word meanings today are changed by business and other specific groups and then they become generalized. A fascinating study, I’m sure.

Adagio's avatar

@JLeslie For me, Next Thursday is also this coming Thursday, but for many they would think next Thursday is a week from this Thursday. If today is Wednesday and I am referring to Thursday of next week, I would say “Thursday week” or “Thursday fortnight” if I was speaking about the following week. Is that used in the US?

JLeslie's avatar

@Adagio I think possibly Thursday week is used here, because it sounds familiar to me, but not in any part of the states I have lived in. Fortnight is not used in the states; it would sound Shakespearean to people here, although I am sure there might be some small exceptions. I think many people would have no idea what it means. For me fortnight means fourteen days.

There are many other things like this here. Like if I stay at someones house that has a basement and two other floors, and I enter on the main floor, and they tell me my bedroom is downstairs, I would figure downstairs from the floor I am on, so in the basement. But, in other parts of the country they mean the main floor, the very floor I am standing on.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Sunny2 You should get a book called, “The Story of English”. It is quite informative on the path of the English language through the centuries. I’m very interested in things like this and I loved the book.

Sunny2's avatar

@tranquilsea Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look for it.

Nullo's avatar

“Issue” meant “topic,” but many topics are problematic…

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