Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The changing meaning of words and why you should care

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

At the end of our weekly staff meeting, we wrap it up with a word or a phrase. It’s selected by our Operations Manager, Melissa. She looks for words that we may have heard but don’t know what they mean, or words that spark the imagination, or words that have changed in meaning through the years.

It’s amazing how a word or phrase that meant one thing when it was first used, now means something completely different. Sometimes it’s just a process of our evolving language and other times it’s the result of our ever-changing culture. Take a look at a few of the words in a list developed by the Huffington Post: 
  • "Fantastic" meant "existing only in one's imagination" centuries ago. Today, it means something is really incredible. 
  • "Hook up" used to mean getting some kind of device or service or appliance up and running, i.e. "hook up cable television." Today, it has two different meanings: "hooking up" with someone to have sex or just "hooking up" with someone as in meeting up. 
  • "Bad" used to describe someone who'd done something wrong or something that was poor in quality. Today, it also means "good" or "great" when used as slang. (And "breaking bad" means to challenge conventions and defy authority.) 
  • "Backlog" meant the biggest log in the fire during colonial times. Today, it means a reserve or a pile of work you still need to plow through. 
  • Years ago, 'thongs' were another word for flip-flops. Nowadays, thongs are underwear. 
  • "Cell” used to mean jail! Or a tiny part of your body. Now, of course, it means your cell phone.
As PR professionals, we really should keep up to speed on these types of changing words.  Since words play a major role in our daily work, we need to know the correct – and incorrect – meaning and use of words. After all, you don’t want to announce to a client or your boss that you’re going home to put on your thongs. Totally wrong meaning and impression!

Note: To see the full Huffington Post story, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

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