Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Frank Hovis

When Is It Accepted That A Word Or Phrase Has Changed Its Meaning?

Recommended Posts

The use of "to coin a phrase" on another thread prompted me on this.

This is near-universally used to mean "to quote a phrase" so I'm happy to accept that the meaning has changed.

Then you have words with precise technical meanings that have become blurred. Such as "decimate" no longer meaning kill every tenth man, rather cause enormous damage. In this case the meaning has actually changed.

So what of "should 'of'" and its ilk. This is used by IME a vast number of people. They know what it means, and whilst it may grate, I know what it means and that is after all the purpose of language.

So should "should of" be now treated as an acceptable alternate to "should 've" and students no longer marked down for it?

Before you rush to judgement I so rarely hear or read the correct form of "my going to the shops" vs "me going to the shops" that I'm beginning to think that it's going the way of "thou hast".

So when is it time to formally recognise that the language has changed? I think the French would of done so by now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surely "to coin a phrase" is to create a phrase?

That's what I thought, but I'm old. This illustrates the ever-evolving nature of language.

When my Dad was at school in the 1930's he was told "alright is all wrong". I know it should be all right, but alright is now what most people know. It has evolved. The Chambers dictionary gives the definition as '...an alternative, less acceptable spelling of all right...' Language evolution in practice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a sixth form English teacher with whom I basically had this conversation - she just refused to countenance the concept that words or phrases evolve over time and hence their meaning can change or mean more than one thing.

I thought that was a moronic stance as the very language that I was communicating with her at the time was the result of it evolving over hundreds of years. The grunt of the caveman had evolved into Shakespeare and so on. She was a devout Christian type so perhaps evolution was not her thing.

I think she hated me also. Pretty sure about that. The bitch kept failing me again and again. Nasty piece of work. There must be a special place in Hell for teachers.

Right, thanks for the morning counselling session. Same time tomorrow?

Oh, I forgot. I think it is the general populance that determines how a word or phrase is used.

There might be a small elite somewhere who, snobbishly, look down on the masses for using a word in such and such way or giving a word or phrase a different meaning... but, as I said, they evolve over time and the masses decide, for good or bad, what will be.

The internet has speeded this up don't you think?

Don't forget - a lot of phrases that we have been using, oh, for the past 50 or 60 years actually had different meanings a 100 years ago. Or 200 years ago or even 500 years ago. I can't think any off the top off my head right now as I am still in therapy mode.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

where do you see should'f written in place of should've? Sure people will pronounce should've as should'f, but the meaning of of and have havent changed?

I have a bike, is not the same as, I of a bike. which I think means I possess a bike and I am part of a bike.

But of course language changes as new things appear in the world and others become obsolete and disused. Also, due to feelings, words become offensive to some on behalf of someone else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's what I thought, but I'm old. This illustrates the ever-evolving nature of language.

When my Dad was at school in the 1930's he was told "alright is all wrong". I know it should be all right, but alright is now what most people know. It has evolved. The Chambers dictionary gives the definition as '...an alternative, less acceptable spelling of all right...' Language evolution in practice.

When I was a kid I was told to write 'Alot' but now I increasingly see internet threads poking fun at people who use 'Alot' instead of 'A lot' as if they are morons for doing so but, in the 70s, that is what I was taught to write.

'Envelope' was, again when I was in school, to be pronounced as 'En-velope' and NEVER as 'N-velope'. It was as if terrible things would befall you if you ever pronounced it as 'N-velope'. Now, today, everyone seems to say 'N-velope' and I get strange looks if I use 'En-velope'.

I think a lot of it - did you see what I did there (I will soon bow down to own new Islamist overlords as well.) - is to do with the Americanisation of the English language and Americans not understanding the use of silent letters in a word.

'Alright' is interesting as, in Wales, it is now used as a greeting. Walk into a shop or an office and you will get "Alright" as the greeting instead of "Hello" or "Good morning".

I feel that there should be a question mark at the end of "Alright", as if it was a question, but the way it is used in Wales it perhaps should not. I mean, people aren't really asking you how you are - I usually respond with "I am fine thank you. How are you?" and I always get strange looks in response.

But that is Wenglish and Wenglish is something strange, peculiar and we try not to talk about it with outsiders. A bit like Vulcans and sex.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surely "to coin a phrase" is to create a phrase?

My understanding is that it can be used in an ironical way when used against an overused phrase. Then people forgot about the irony and it became normal to use it as 'to quote a phrase'.

My general view is that if you're writing for money or being taught / teaching then you should follow the rules. Everything else is just colloquial and you can get away with all sorts of constructions - but you might want to give at least some thought to the fact that some people will consider you to be a moron for mistaking your / you're (let alone shoving in a split infinitive, say).

But there is a little bit more - I have this suspicion that some people write/read pretty much phonetically, and as such mistaking your / you're would just be a minor technical nuance - but others read the actual visual representation of the words and so mistaking your / you're conveys a completely different (and probably nonsense) meaning. This sort of difference would (I guess) explain the should of / should have problem. Anyway, in this theory the former type of person would be more likely to say 'what's the issue - it all makes sense in the end' whereas the latter would say 'I have to read it twice because it didn't make sense the first time, and that is really annoying'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

awright?....its from the east end...wales is where eastenders live now

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surely "to coin a phrase" is to create a phrase?

That's what I thought, but I'm old. This illustrates the ever-evolving nature of language.

When my Dad was at school in the 1930's he was told "alright is all wrong". I know it should be all right, but alright is now what most people know. It has evolved. The Chambers dictionary gives the definition as '...an alternative, less acceptable spelling of all right...' Language evolution in practice.

Yes, of course that's what it means. I have not however once seen it used in this sense, (when woudl you actually embellish something that you wrote or said with "to coin a phrase"?) so as it is used always to mean to quote a phrase thne why not recognise this as the generally accepted usage?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

awright?....its from the east end...wales is where eastenders live now

Hmm, interesting. Yep, loads of Londoners have done white flight to Wales. It is not pronounced as "Awright" in the East End sense but, yep, perhaps it is because so many Welsh are slaves of 'Eastenders'. Good thought.

The Wenglish thing is interesting because it is basically its own language that has been evolving for probably a 100 years or more. A mix of Welsh and English but mostly English with some Welsh thrown in. I often hear English people decrying it as if the Welsh cannot speak English but they are not speaking English - they are speaking Wenglish. It is a form of English in the same way that the US, Oz or India has its own form of English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

where do you see should'f written in place of should've? Sure people will pronounce should've as should'f, but the meaning of of and have havent changed?

I have a bike, is not the same as, I of a bike. which I think means I possess a bike and I am part of a bike.

But of course language changes as new things appear in the world and others become obsolete and disused. Also, due to feelings, words become offensive to some on behalf of someone else.

Surely "should of" is actually "should've" - should have. It is the pronunciation that has got sloppy.

Yes again, and I have seen "of" frequently in texts, emails, forum postings (not here but this is a bit posh).

I have even explained to people why it's wrong and they think that I'm making it up.

So why not say that 'should 've' and 'should of' are both now acceptable? Words and language mutate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My understanding is that it can be used in an ironical way when used against an overused phrase. Then people forgot about the irony and it became normal to use it as 'to quote a phrase'.

My general view is that if you're writing for money or being taught / teaching then you should follow the rules. Everything else is just colloquial and you can get away with all sorts of constructions - but you might want to give at least some thought to the fact that some people will consider you to be a moron for mistaking your / you're (let alone shoving in a split infinitive, say).

But there is a little bit more - I have this suspicion that some people write/read pretty much phonetically, and as such mistaking your / you're would just be a minor technical nuance - but others read the actual visual representation of the words and so mistaking your / you're conveys a completely different (and probably nonsense) meaning. This sort of difference would (I guess) explain the should of / should have problem. Anyway, in this theory the former type of person would be more likely to say 'what's the issue - it all makes sense in the end' whereas the latter would say 'I have to read it twice because it didn't make sense the first time, and that is really annoying'.

Yes, that sums it up nicely.

And with some Facebook postings in particular I have to read them several times and still don't undertstand it because of the phonetic spelling, absence of punctuation, and seemingly random use of capitals.

I was trying to think of an example of why we should recognise some of these changes as being acceptable as whilst they grate they do not lose any meaning, offhand the best I can think of is Sheriff being a broken down mis-spelt version of Shire Reeve.

Edit: I actually put "great" instead of "grate". I find the process of typing very different to writing and it tends towards phonetics. In emails I sometime interchange there / their but would never do this when writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

English is a dynamic language and that is surely one of its strengths. Words that would have been totally unacceptable in everyday speech 40 years ago are now commonplace. For example many of my students have to be reminded that the word 'F*****' is unacceptable in normal conversation. Part of my job is to act as a filtering system to moderate and steer students into speaking an acceptable form of English.

I think that part of the problem here is that many words come with cultural baggage that to a native English speaker is obvious but not necessarily so to those whose first language is not English. Even my students who are 2nd generation immigrants are less likely to have the prompts and nudges at home about they way they use English.

The meaning of words shifts with time. The word 'gay' is a useful example of this. Before the WW2 the word gay was used to imply light, happy etc. By the 1970's its usage had shifted to the point where some comedians could use the word as a double entendre and get a cheap laugh. Post 2000 its usage firmly implies homosexuality and its mostly used in that context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The meaning of words shifts with time. The word 'gay' is a useful example of this. Before the WW2 the word gay was used to imply light, happy etc. By the 1970's its usage had shifted to the point where some comedians could use the word as a double entendre and get a cheap laugh. Post 2000 its usage firmly implies homosexuality and its mostly used in that context.

Round the Horne is a good record of that change in usage. In the early shows Kenneth Horne can refer to having a gay old time in Paris and the audience know what he means (gay = fun) but the two homosexual characters (Julian and Sandy) snigger at it a bit because in their subculture it has become to mean homosexual; inceeasingly as the shows wear on the word is being used as a double entendre and more of the audience are sniggering along. Now anybody saying that they were "off to Paris for a gay old time" will find that nobody thinks that they mean innocent fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

English is a dynamic language and that is surely one of its strengths. Words that would have been totally unacceptable in everyday speech 40 years ago are now commonplace. For example many of my students have to be reminded that the word 'F*****' is unacceptable in normal conversation. Part of my job is to act as a filtering system to moderate and steer students into speaking an acceptable form of English.

I think that part of the problem here is that many words come with cultural baggage that to a native English speaker is obvious but not necessarily so to those whose first language is not English. Even my students who are 2nd generation immigrants are less likely to have the prompts and nudges at home about they way they use English.

The meaning of words shifts with time. The word 'gay' is a useful example of this. Before the WW2 the word gay was used to imply light, happy etc. By the 1970's its usage had shifted to the point where some comedians could use the word as a double entendre and get a cheap laugh. Post 2000 its usage firmly implies homosexuality and its mostly used in that context.

It is shocking reading profiles on a dating site that is are simply appalling grammar and then reading that the profile writer's profession is a teacher or lecturer.

Edit: Shocked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never heard "to coin a phrase" used to mean to quote, other than perhaps ironically.

There is a difference between errors and changes. The latter just happen, people defending the former though are usually just trying to excuse their own ignorance. Sometimes the line between the two is blurry. "Should of" is just plain wrong, and I'm not sure that "decimate" ever meant to kill one in ten in English, even if that was the meaning of the Latin word it derived from. "Gay" on the other hand is merely an example of changing language.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never heard "to coin a phrase" used to mean to quote, other than perhaps ironically.

There is a difference between errors and changes. The latter just happen, people defending the former though are usually just trying to excuse their own ignorance. Sometimes the line between the two is blurry. "Should of" is just plain wrong, and I'm not sure that "decimate" ever meant to kill one in ten in English, even if that was the meaning of the Latin word it derived from. "Gay" on the other hand is merely an example of changing language.

Really? I hear it frequently and always non-ironically.

I don't think people defending errors are excusing their own ignorance; as they just use the incorrect form rather than defending it or even knowing that it is an error. I'm sure the people who I've explained how 'should have' abbreviates to 'should 've' and merely sounds like 'should of' think that I was off on some elaborate wind-up (to be fair, I do do elaborate wind-ups) as they still use 'of' in written communciation.

I can see 'should of' becoming an acceptable alternate use with a note that it is derived from the pronounciation of 'should 've'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just for the avoidance of doubt, although language changes I don't agree that leaves a carte blanche for bad usage and bad spelling as many people seem to argue - usually by poor students and poor teachers.

For instance, 'of' is still clearly incorrect when 'have' should be used.

Where the line should be drawn is not clear but you'll know it when you see it.

This is interesting and realted, it covers how errors in spoken language have changed the written language. "Aks" is a good one which makes me shudder but is it on the path to standard usage?

Words that used to begin with "n"

Adder, apron and umpire all used to start with an "n". Constructions like "A nadder" or "Mine napron" were so common the first letter was assumed to be part of the preceding word. Linguists call this kind of thing reanalysis or rebracketing.

When sounds swap around

Wasp used to be waps; bird used to be brid and horse used to be hros. Remember this when the next time you hear someone complaining about aks for ask or nucular for nuclear, or even perscription. It's called metathesis, and it's a very common, perfectly natural process.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/11/pronunciation-errors-english-language

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes again, and I have seen "of" frequently in texts, emails, forum postings (not here but this is a bit posh).

I have even explained to people why it's wrong and they think that I'm making it up.

So why not say that 'should 've' and 'should of' are both now acceptable? Words and language mutate.

maybe its txt wrds cripin n an pepl usn eswhere

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

maybe its txt wrds cripin n an pepl usn eswhere

Exactly.

I am pleased that the wildly annoying substitution of numbers for parts of words (2mo, 4got) in texts has been mostly killed off by the lack of restriction upon message length, bigger phones so more usable keyboards, and predictive text.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is shocking reading profiles on a dating site that is are have simply appalling grammar and then reading that the profile writer's profession is a teacher or lecturer.

No charge ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly.

I am pleased that the wildly annoying substitution of numbers for parts of words (2mo, 4got) in texts has been mostly killed off by the lack of restriction upon message length, bigger phones so more usable keyboards, and predictive text.

me toenail

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

where do you see should'f written in place of should've? Sure people will pronounce should've as should'f, but the meaning of of and have havent changed?

I have a bike, is not the same as, I of a bike. which I think means I possess a bike and I am part of a bike.

But of course language changes as new things appear in the world and others become obsolete and disused. Also, due to feelings, words become offensive to some on behalf of someone else.

Should of, is just a lazy or short way of saying should have......if you say should have fast enough, it sounds like should of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   40 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.