You will notice that there are many blue words in this post. Each one is a link to that words definition. Click on them. You may be surprised by what you find. Or maybe not. :)
"Inconceivable!!" - Vizzini
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya
If you do not know what that quote is from, then you should stop reading this and go here, and then go and watch The Princess Bride this instant!
You're back? Wasn't it excellent? Now we may proceed.
I have compiled a list of words that either do not mean what we think they mean, or words that have completely lost their value and have had their definitions changed in the dictionary because of societies slang use of them.
Let us begin.
Now, because we, who call ourselves English speakers, have taken what was once a beautiful language and slowly devalued it's more powerful words, the dictionary now reflects the definitions we have invented for ourselves. For instance:
Previously, I would have told you that to "decimate" something is to wipe it out, or destroy it. False. Or at least it is only partially true. Originally, "decimate" (from Latin) meant to reduce by 1/10th. Surprised? So was I. Of course, the current definition of "decimate" reflects our slang use of it.
Some words have lost their meaning, because we, the undereducated public, instead of looking up the correct definition, have begun to use what ever word we think of to mean what we want to say. Thus creating a working definition for that word, but, at the same time, ignoring the actual definition.
This word is used quite flippantly to describe just about anything. Whether it was a mildly interesting story you heard or a taco you ate, the word "awesome" is thrown into the sentence without anyone batting an eye. This is not the correct way to use the word "awesome". And it's entry in the dictionary has not been changed to reflect our poor use of the word. So, there is no excuse. "Awesome" means "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear." The word "awesome" should be reserved for things that are truly magnificent and inspiring of awe (Awe is an interesting one too.) So, unless your taco is particularly inspiring of fear, or great admiration, you should probably use a more appropriate word. An accurate use of the word "awesome" would be in reference to God and His glory.
Incredible is supposed to mean that something is "not credible, or impossible to believe". Not so now. We currently lump it together with the other words we use incorrectly like "amazing", "fantastic", and "extraordinary".
"Great" is used incorrectly all the time. And most often by Americans. The British have kept a tighter hold on the original meaning, which is "very large, or of unusual size". "That was a great brownie!" would be an incorrect use of the word. Unless the brownie happened to be unusually large. :) It would also be... unusual for you to refer to yourself as "great" in response to someone asking how you are doing.
This one is particularly annoying to me. When someone asks you how you are doing, you can not be "good" unless you are telling them that you are particularly moral or virtuous. Click on the word to read the actual definitions. There are many.
Frightening, terrifying. Enough said.
We think it means to lightly read through, to skim over. Wrong. In fact, it means quite the opposite. To "peruse" something is to read it thoroughly, and carefully.
Now, I realize that the definitions of these words have changed to reflect our use of them, and I will not be offended if you continue to describe your tacos as awesome. However, it might be worth investing in a Thesaurus so that you can impress your friends. (Don't go over board with it. haha)
Because I love the English language, here is a new word for you: Adamantine. See if you can think of a grammatically correct sentence using this word and post it in the comments.
I hope you have a delightful day!