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Problematic words


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"one of the tenets of a liberal education is that a knowledge of essential literature, art, philosophy, science, music and history are common for all educated people"

 

This was posted recently and got my attention because of the word "liberal". I hate this word. For me it's a non-word, expunged from my lexicon and terminated with extreme prejudice. Why? Because it's meaningless. Obviously it has meaning for those who use it, but the problem is it has been "hijacked" by so many vested interests over the last 150 years or so to mean so many different things that all it does is cause confusion. Especially between the US and the UK. Well, we are nations divided by a common language :P

 

It's a handy label to denigrate, it's shorthand for economic theory, it's the name of various political parties, it's...  you get the idea :funny: It's one of the blessings and curses of the English language that words frequently have multiple meanings. Usually this is not a problem because the particular meaning the writer or speaker intends will be clear from the context. That is not the case with this word.

German is a much more sensible language. Words grow, adding on more words to make the meaning clear by creating compound words. However, these can become mammutwörter, or mammoth words, and Mark Twain commented that “Some German words are so long that they have a perspective” green-happy.gif

Then there's "our" word: gay. I'm sure there are retired colonels in Tunbridge Wells who froth at the mouth every time they read or hear it, fuming that it has been "hijacked" by us so it can never again be used for its former meanings - or maybe they use it whenever they can in order to subvert and discombobulate :lol:

So, what words do you avoid or find difficult - English or any language?

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Zombie
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I absolutely agree with 'liberal'.

 

Mine is not a word but a phrase. Whatever 'does the trick'. Words, solutions, things, actions. Meh.

hattrick_productions.jpg

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An interesting topic. I've found that most (not all) of the time, when there is a large argument about something, it usually comes down to the two sides having different definitions for the same word. The simplest example is one we'll all be familiar with: homosexual. What's the definition is it:

  • Someone who has sexual relationships with a person of the same sex, or
  • Someone who is sexually attracted to people of the same sex

Yes, yes, I'm ignoring bisexuality for this example, which just goes to show how complicated things can get real fast :P Anyway, the two definitions can be resolved down to "actions" vs "attraction". Some people define homosexuality by actions (first definition) and hence it's a choice. Most people (and the generally accepted definition in scientific/medical circles) define homosexuality by attraction (second definition) and hence it's not a choice.

 

Two definitions being used creating two different perspectives and consequently massive arguments.

 

Putting my moderator hat on for the moment:

 

This topic can easily fall into a political argument, especially about the meanings of words commonly used in political circles. Posts deemed to be of a political nature may be removed without notice. Keep the discussion civil and don't snipe at people with opposing views to your own.

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One word I really hate is 'zerstückeln'. (cut into pieces) Ha, it's shorter in German! Anyway, a psychologist could probably tell me why I avoid this word at all cost. It's 'zerteilen', much better, 'zerlegen', 'zerkleinern' I know so many synonyms... :*)

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One word I really hate is 'zerstückeln'. (cut into pieces) Ha, it's shorter in German!

 

The German word is shorter?  Shorter than the English word?

 

I think the English equivalent is "chopped".  :P

 

Most of the problematic words we might consider here are going to be those with multiple meanings.  Chop/chopped has many meanings as noun, verb, and adjective.  It's enough to make you cry, as in chopping an onion.

Edited by MikeL
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The German word is shorter?  Shorter than the English word?

 

I think the English equivalent is "chopped".  :P

 

Most of the problematic words we might consider here are going to be those with multiple meanings.  Chop/chopped has many meanings as noun, verb, and adjective.  It's enough to make you cry, as in chopping an onion.

Nope, chopped is zerkleinert, gehackt etc. If you want another word (I hate this almost as much as 'zerstückelt') it's 'dismembered'.

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I think the English equivalent is "chopped".  :P

 

 

Nope, chopped is zerkleinert, gehackt etc. If you want another word (I hate this almost as much as 'zerstückelt') it's 'dismembered'.

 

There are lots of words that exist in some languages but not others. It becomes really obvious when attempting to translate from one language into another. Suddenly you're faced with a word that has no counterpart in the other language and you have to make up some round-about way of describing the concept, or use an approximation. And you think, surely I can express just about everything in the world in my language? And it turns out, no, actually your language doesn't have its own word for this particular feeling, or it's lacking a slightly more nuanced synonym. When you speak and think in several languages, it's very frustrating to find that the language you're speaking doesn't have the word that you've got in your head. :P

 

Me, I love all words, even the ugly ones. Especially the ugly ones. They add nuance and character to language. That said, there are some words I will avoid at any cost, namely annoying marketing terms. You know, words that are just so obviously made up by a marketing department somewhere. They're especially common in adverts for cosmetics. And then there are words that only interior decorators use. Colours that you've never even heard of and the like. Very annoying.

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There's a very interesting essay by Drake Hunter over at The Mail Crew website. I think it's relevant to this discussion. It's about words....

 

That essay examines in passing the biological basis for language and how we interpret words. It can be heavy going in parts, but I found it fascinating. One thing I complete agree with is that words are labels. Just like labelling people is often inaccurate, words are not always accurate, either. People can hear the same word, but understand it in different ways.

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It is funny how even I don't know a definition of a word, we try to guess it and then it becomes the definition until we hear different.

 

Example, my Goddaughter who is 20 and supposedly passed High School were joking back and forth. I called her a homo and she said that she wasn't a homo. I said yes you are, you are a homo sapien. Her reply was isn't that a nicer way to call a homosexual? :o

 

Myself, I heard the word disingenuous. Up to that time when I looked it up, I thought is was a polite way of calling someone dumb :unsure:

 

I could add a lot more to the different meanings and such to words, but just thought I would expand that the lack of knowledge of a word can change the meaning of it too over time. Not that the examples above are necessarily going to change the meaning, but when popular culture changes the meaning, the original can be lost.

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Any language mutates - it has to in order for the various 'generations' to talk amongst themselves without others 'listening in.'

 

To role this back to the original line - Liberal has had itself hijacked in the same way that MoR did (MoR - Middle of the Road - however, it isn't known as MotR, is it.)

 

A simple (and, to me, surprising) example is that children, deaf from birth, will create their own 'slang' sign language within a group. They will also 'teach' other groups who, in turn, mutate and create.

 

Others are created through media popularity - here in the UK, the expression 'lush' and 'sick' were jacked and can also mean Good, Nice, 'I really like this.' - to the point that, depending on the age of the audience, 'That's really sick!' takes on different, and opposite, meanings.

 

Or are we now at the point in civilization where we need to recycle words like we recycle the garbage/trash/rubbish/waste/junk?

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the lack of knowledge of a word can change the meaning of it too over time.

 

good point. If, say, there's a sudden really huge change in something - medical advance, geopolitics, whatever - people say "It's a quantum change" or a "quantum leap" when a quantum is in fact the tiniest amount that can be measured in any physical interaction. But now it's pretty much used by everyone so it's only stick-in-the-muds like me who wince :P

 

Any language mutates - it has to in order for the various 'generations' to talk amongst themselves without others 'listening in.'....

 

Teens have always coined their own words for common bonding and to exclude grown-ups.  "DBI" [Don't Beg It] is a grumpy teen response to a parent offering a treat to make up, and if Mum innocently asks "What's that dear?" she'll likely get "DPMO!" [Don't Piss Me Off] :lol:

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How does a quantum leap differ from a paradigm shift?

It depends on the direction you're facing. If you're going forward, it's a leap. If you're going sideways, it's a shift 0:)

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Current usage for the word "awesome" really annoys me. 

 

The Grand Canyon is awesome....

 

getting 7 Chicken McNuggets in your 6-piece order is not awesome. 

 

The mundane rarely inspires reverence, admiration or fear so isn't likely to ever be awesome.

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Current usage for the word "awesome" really annoys me. 

 

The Grand Canyon is awesome....

 

getting 7 Chicken McNuggets in your 6-piece order is not awesome. 

 

The mundane rarely inspires reverence, admiration or fear so isn't likely to ever be awesome.

 

The Grand Canyon is awesome.

 

Yosemite is awesome.

 

Your comment is awesome.  Yes, it is...really is.

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Various bits of business English take turns driving me mad, but I think "bucket" has been the worst for me, even worse than "leverage."

I think there are two major drivers of shifts in English: the young and business. Each likes to twist words to mean what they want them to mean, and in some cases those changes make it into the general population.

 

Out of the two, I think the younger generation has more impact because the way they use words remains as they get older. Sometimes, though, business usage spills into sporting usage (with the advent of increased business practises in major sports) and from there it gets into the general population.

 

Hmm...it sounds like I'm describing the spread of a disease.... :ph34r:

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As in the old Rockin' Pneumonia an' the Boogie-Woogie Flu? (Ah, those old psychobilly days of yore...)

 

Latest amusement still remains the expression 'To rock up' - meaning 'to arrive somewhere.'

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Others are created through media popularity - here in the UK, the expression 'lush' and 'sick' were jacked and can also mean Good, Nice, 'I really like this.' - to the point that, depending on the age of the audience, 'That's really sick!' takes on different, and opposite, meanings.

 

And now we get to discuss dual spelling too. I have always understand that is something is sick (good), it is sic. without the k. and this sic is different from the latin used to define grammatical errors. 

also fly got appropriated, at least at some point in the early thousands, to mean good/awesome.

 

I have a new hatred for "literally" purely because it is so overused and so wrongly. I'm not sure anyone under the age of 18 actually knows what "literally" means.

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I have a new hatred for "literally" purely because it is so overused and so wrongly. I'm not sure anyone under the age of 18 actually knows what "literally" means.

Wrongly, yes. Like Ironically.

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Like rain on your wedding day.

 

One usage that interests me is the metaphor about placing pressure on someone to do something.  Americans shorten to "pressure," I think reaching for the older, and still perfectly usable, "press." British people go for "pressurize" which I think is just nuts.

Edited by Irritable1
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