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Words That Have Lost all Recognisable Meaning


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Apart from the obvious (gay & wicked), and the example below


Q. (*Frantically looks up definition of word 'celebrity'..!*)


Q. 'Current usage' appears to imply anybody who's been on television more than twice ...


My particular hate is the phrase 'In The Public Interest', which nowadays seems to mean anything that 'the public might find interesting'.

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You've got the idea! I hate those, too :mad:


Although I didn't discover the proper use of nice until many years after I had been nagged out of the common usage. Why didn't my English teachers explain 'a nice distinction'? I might have realised why they were being so picky.

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  • 2 years later...
  • 3 months later...

Language is constantly evolving and I don't mind words changing in meaning (for instance, the word evil once meant naughty whereas in some 16th century texts, the word naughty means very wicked indeed, so over the centuries their meanings have almost swapped) but I don't like it when words are robbed of their meaning through carelessness and we end up with fewer things we can actually say. Losing some words restricts the language's capacities for expression; this is a sad thing.


So, I can be bugged when people who should know better use 'disinterested' to mean 'uninterested' when we already have the word 'uninterested' - and we don't have anything else that means 'disinterested' (uninvolved? impartial? nothing else says quite the same thing).


I also don't like people saying 'unique' when they mean 'rare'. Same reason; there is nothing else that means unique. It is unique. Or (as above) 'literally' when, actually, they mean 'not literally'. That one puzzles me. How have we gotten into a situation where a word is commonly used to express its exact opposite?


But I don't really mind when people say 'their' to mean 'his or her' or 'he or she'. It's messy and it doesn't sound very nice and I'm not really comfortable using it myself but it isn't restrictive in the same way. It's probably a change that can't be put back.

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This is a good thread to revive Kimberley, well done.


The word I dislike being used too liberally, and incorrectly to my mind, is 'hate'. I banned my children from using it when they were young explaining that they didn't mean 'hate' in its true sense and there were so many other words they could use.

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"Cleave" is a word which can mean two opposite things

'cleave' is an autoantonym ;)


(bound: can mean moving to a place, or unable to move

fast: can mean moving very quickly, or unable to move

custom: can mean the normal way of doing something, or having something done a special way

clip: can mean attached to something, or cut from something)

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