Rotarian Laura Ford presented a program on the changing definitions of words at the Kennett Rotary meeting on Thursday.
I found it fascinating so I thought I’d share some of her examples with you and throw in a few of my own.
Over time, the meaning of words have changed, some several times and some have completely disappeared.
In the 1300’s, nervous originally meant “sinewy or strong,” today it’s defined as “jumpy.”
Nice originally meant foolish, wanton, reckless and and hard to control. Today, it means just the opposite, “kind and good.”
Naughty meant people who had nothing. They had naught.
Jethro Bodine, from the Beverly Hillbillies, always replaced zero with naught when counting. Later the meaning shifted from being worth nothing to being morally bad or wicked, and in the 1600s it shifted again to a more gentler meaning applied to children, “mischievous, disobedient, or bad behavior.”
Wicked today means “cool or good,” but originally it was something evil or very bad.
A couple I found interesting are the words clue and awful.
Centuries ago a clue or clew was a ball of yarn.
Think about “threading your way through a maze and you’ll see how we got from yarn to key bits of evidence that help us solve things.
Awful things used to mean “worthy of awe” for a variety of reasons, which is how we get expressions like “that was an awfully good meal.”
Some words have disappeared from the English language. Examples are “fusby” which meant chubby or squat and “skirr” which is a whirring sound like the wings of a bird in flight.
We’re also adding new words to the dictionary all the time.
How many of you use these new words or know their meanings?
Binge-worthy, buzz kill, bling, hater, mini-me and twerk.
With the introduction of the internet, more words have appeared that have different meanings.
A “mouse,” is a computer tool, and it got its name because before they were cordless they did resemble a mouse.
A cloud is no longer fluffy, but a place to store information.
Thanks Laura for enlightening me to how in the world of words, definitions are always changing.
Catch you later.
Take it easy.
See you out there.