I work somewhere around the bottom of the medical field, and part of my job involves talking with people and digging deep into their personal lives after knowing them for maybe two minutes. I also give people simple instructions followed by positive affirmations such as “great” or “perfect” to let them know that they are doing things right. Most people do not have a problem with the way I talk. I graduated college with a degree in English; I speak just fine. I even used a semicolon appropriately just now. But, there’s always one.
An older man came into my work. I started with my normal process of pleasantries and began the part of my job that involves asking questions. After asking my first question, this old man—who I will call Bob, because all old men should be called Bob—responded with the right answer so I gave him a positive affirmation: “awesome.” At this point, Bob got my attention, made me stop what I was doing, and informed me that I, like so many other morons of the world, was using the word “awesome” inappropriately.
Having much experience working with people in my job, I patiently allowed Bob to lecture me on my youthful ignorance and inability to express myself with any form of an advanced and accurate vocabulary. This lecture consisted mainly of Bob telling me the dictionary definition of “awesome” according to how it would have been used in the first half of the 20th century. For those of you unfamiliar with the more original meaning of the word, Dictionary.com offers the following definition: “causing or inducing awe; inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear.” I already knew this definition of the word, and I was als...
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...ism that evolves over time and as such, we must allow for these kinds of changes. In his day, Shakespeare made up quite a few words and even changed words from one part of speech to another. For example, he took the word “duke,” a noun, and changed it to a verb in “[he] dukes it well,” as we see in Act III scene II of Measure for Measure. This cycle is normal and progressive in its ability to help language adapt to the current needs of our generation. Life changes. So does language. These changes and variation give root to cultural developments—such as the formation of creole languages in setting up trade relationships between countries and cultures across the Atlantic Ocean.
So whether it’s the use of slang or syntax, we need to understand and appreciate the differences within our own language and allow these awesome alterations to build and not break our society.
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