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Our View: The ever-evolving English language

 

 

Ours is a living language. 

 

Words that meant one thing as late as a decade ago have new meaning. 

 

There are the obvious ones: Bad now means good in some circles. Gay once meant lighthearted and carefree. Now it can mean anything from homosexual to dumb. And the meaning depends heavily on who you talk to. 

 

In a recent column in this newspaper, a 30-something was quoted who used "ridiculous" as a compliment. An older reader took it as a criticism. 

 

We long for simpler times when we said what we meant. 

 

And what we said and what we meant were one and the same. Do you know what we're saying? 

 

Consider Koine Greek, the language in which much of the New Testament was written. 

 

There were various words for all the many things we now just call love. 

 

Agape was unconditional love. 

 

Storge was a familial love. 

 

Phileo was brotherly love. 

 

Today, in English, we love our cars, our pets, our cheeseburgers, our spouses. 

 

The ancient Greeks would think we are crazy. But we mean different kinds of love with the same word. (At least some of us do.) 

 

Yet we embrace words and try to understand our language's ever-changing nature. "Word" itself has new meaning. 

 

According to urbandictionary.com, "word" means "well said" and also "can be used as a greeting" as in, "hey what's up." 

 

Don't worry. We won't delve into text-speak, which evolves by the hour. 

 

It's important that we understand each other. That takes a concerted effort when we're all speaking the same language in different ways. 

 

More important is that we keep the conversation going. 

 

When the conversation stops -- however fluid the language might be -- that's when things get bad. (Bad as in bad. Not bad as in good.)

 

 

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