Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Dictionary

I had a conversation recently Barbara about the meanings of words, words that are often used incorrectly, and the evolution of language. This thought has been on my mind for a few years now, and I feel a little late to write up my feelings on this subject, but I'll try to be succinct. At a wedding a few years back I noticed that my brother had no idea what the simple, everyday word "subtle" really meant. I tried to tell him that it was another word for "nuanced", but he didn't believe me and the argument, for the most part, stopped there. I was inebriated at the time, and arguing semantics just seemed like a nightmare waiting to bloom, so I dropped it. My assumption is that he'd always heard it used in the sarcastic "How subtle" that is common in colloquy. This, however, still doesn't change the fact that he was clearly wrong in his conceptual understanding of the word: this brings me to the rest of the population. I am curious to find out how many everyday words there are that are continuously misunderstood and misused. I also wonder how often that the people that know that the usage is incorrect actually go and correct the speaker. I like correcting people on occasion, but I try not to out of proper etiquette.

This is just a thought. I just find the evolution of language fascinating, but it can be curious. People are sooooo capricious, yet artlessly expressive sometimes. Or maybe they're just too lazy to pick up a dictionary. I mean, dictionaries aren't that heavy.

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