Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 2 October 2017

Language


 
 
 














One of the (few) benefits of having lived three score years and ten, is the chance to observe the way our wonderful English language has morphed over that time.

English is flexible, organic and versatile. The way it is used in political discourse demonstrates this.

Let’s look at a few well-used expressions.

“Illegal” is a good example for starters. It has been appropriated from across the Pacific and applied to what our government calls Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals (UMAs).

Before wee Johnny’s “Pacific Solution”, anyone using the term “illegals” would have been looked at quizzically, and asked “illegal/s what”? It was, after all, an adjective, not a noun.

Other nouns are converted to verbs. “Medal” is a good example.

Then we have “illegitimate”.

Back in the day, this word was used to describe a child born out of wedlock. I doubt that most Gen Xers would have any understanding of its use in that context.

Then there is “guy”. Again, it’s a trans Pacific import, but its meaning has morphed from the individual male to the non-gender specific collective. It’s now a word used to address a group of both genders. Strange….

Some words are relatively new. An example is “awesome”.

Apparently, it originates in California surf slang of the 1960s, where it meant more or less anything from "good" to "incredibly amazing". I don’t remember hearing it until the early 2000s, but I’m always a little behind the trend.

Occasionally, words are invented. If the person doing the inventing has a profile, the word usually enters the lexicon quickly. Pauline Hanson talks about “Straya”. I think she is referring to my native land, but I can’t be completely sure. After all, most of what Hanson says is her own unique form of patois, understood only by Harpics.*

Many words are so over used that have been worn out. An example is “icon”. An icon was, for eons, a devotional painting of Christ or another holy figure, typically executed on wood and used ceremonially in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches.

It is now used repeatedly by all kinds of media to describe something as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration. That’s OK. What irritates me is that it is over-used to the point of abuse of the original word and its meaning.

Then there is the language used in the political arena.

Generally, political language labels rather than describes. A favourite way of shutting down a discussion is to label your opponent. It’s used by those with a binary disposition who find analysis difficult.

That’s another trend imported from across the Pacific, as is the hyper partisanship that is wrapped up in it.

The study of language continues to fascinate me. I hope, gentle reader, you share my obsession.

*Those so far to the Right that they are completely round the bend. Derived from the slogan of a toilet cleaning product - "clean round the bend".

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a good R.C. what is your take on the bastardisation of the word "marriage" that may take place in the very near future?

1735099 said...

Given that the dictionary defines "marriage" as - the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship I don't see it bastardised as applied to SSM.

Anonymous said...

What does the church teach you Robert?

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