Words with new meanings -- appropriate?

Discussion in 'Every Day Debating' started by Jessehk, Jul 9, 2007.

  1. Jessehk

    Jessehk The introverted

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    A while ago, I was on an orchestra trip and I was pretty disappointed with the state of our tour bus. Rather then being modern and sleek (to be expected in Germany ;)), it was an old thing from what looked like the mid 80's. While expressing my distaste for the bus, I made a comment along the lines of:

    Now, in no way at all was I referring to the racial slur, but rather then older definition of the word: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/niggardly

    To my immediate embarrassment and regret, the people who happened to be around me (maybe 3) looked with disapproval and I was forced to defend my use of the word and emphasize it's former definition as well as my firm belief that racism in all forms is terrible.

    To what extent should words like this be used? Should the former definition of the word be dropped in order to avoid misunderstanding, hurt, and anger, or should we have a right to use words such as these in their inoffensive contexts?

    Did I make a horrible mistake?
     
  2. Alchemist

    Alchemist The Fighters Guide House Member

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    I dont think so. Take the word "gay" for instance. It use to mean, and still should, happy. Now it means homosexual.

    If the word is used, and really meant, as the older definition then there should be no problem, but there are so many people who never open a dictionary and only know the definition of words as told to by others...then..........well you get your scenario.

    I do not think you are in the wrong, but alas those who still use the true definitions of words are fading and dying out.
     
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  3. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Well they're wouldn't be much words which could be mistaken as "discriminated" yet it isn't...are there?

    yes gay was a word which wasn't discriminated, but gay is also a word that should not be seen as discriminating in my opinion, it's just that through time that not the defination has been changed, but the way its used.

    I mean they use it in insults, "you're gay!!!" which is more of a higher insult in the manner of "you're not cool"...but the definition is still practically the same as it unfortunatly still refers to homosexuality...as homosexuality is seen as "not cool" at all. But other then that I can't see much words which could be misunderstood, but I understand why in your case Jessehk, it got misunderstood, cause it points to a definition people don't understand....all they hear is the word nigger, so they don't think otherwise and immediatly assume it's suppose to be discriminating.
     
  4. Jessehk

    Jessehk The introverted

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    *** comes to mind. It used to refer to a bundle of sticks, and is now considered an offensive term for homosexual people.

    I'm sure there are others. :)

    EDIT: Wow, it really is considered offensive. The forum software bleeped it out. Let's just say it's the word for cigarettes in England.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2007
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  5. Padmé

    Padmé Mrs Cascador

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    Not all old words with new meanings are offensive or inappropriate ;) think of wallpaper, initially it pretty much meant what is says, paper for your wall. But now it can also mean the wallpaper on your computer screen. Other example is spam, normally a lunch meat but now to do with nonesense lol Many web things have brought new meanings to old words, "surf", "page", "visit", "virus", "web" and "click" have new meanings as well
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2007
  6. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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    I thought the net meaning of spam came from Monty Python who used it in a video some time in the 80s.

    What about lag? ;)

    You hear it all the time now because of the net.Even in my language we have "greekalized" some verbs and terms of MMORPGs and made them into new verbs like "farmaro" I'm farming or "Xparo" I'm getting Exp or I'm levelling up.

    The word "Ethnikistis" which means nationalist in my language used to have a good meaning once that of a good patriot,but now it has the meaning of the far right-wing fascist in a way.

    And the word blowjob...oh dear you can say that anymore without feeling nervous.
     
  7. Sorillon

    Sorillon Thousandth Post Thief

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    The word niggardly doesn't have to do with the racial slur, so I'm guessing they just misheard you.
     
  8. Jessehk

    Jessehk The introverted

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    I know it has nothing to do with the slur. My point is that very few people are aware of the distinction. Now that I think about, my thread title might not be entirely accurate. Oh well. :)
     
  9. chimera_789

    chimera_789 Queen of Air and Darkness

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    What about the word discriminate (discrimination) itself? It used to mean to discern or distinguish as between different groups or categories, but people have used it interchangeably with predjudice for so long that this has become not only an additional meaning, but the dominate meaning. In other words to discriminate used to be a fairly neutural action, but now the first thing people think of when they see or here that phrase is that one is being a bigot of some kind.

    And don't get me started on Bushisms like nuecular instead of nuclear or how people always like to say "here comes the calvary" (an allusion to horse-mounted soldiers in warfare) when the word is cavalry.

    Languages evolve, they always have, but there's something to be said for precision and accuracy. Of course for such precision to be effective, people have to be aware of the true meaning of words and their various degrees and uses in context, which generally people aren't. Well, its true of Americans anyway - as evidence by abismal SAT scores on both the English portion in general and the analogies section in particular. I think its one thing to invent wholly new words for a new concept - a la "truthiness." But the true meaning of existing words is obscured by lazy usage and the sloppily appointed "new" or "additional" meanings derived from such usage --I think to the detriment of language in general. How can you say what you really mean if you don't know how to say it or if no one comprehends the true message of your words. Words lose their worth in communication when they are thrown around all willy nilly with little regard for actual meaning and the value of that communication as a whole is decreased.

    But then again maybe I'm being unreasonable. I'm still fighting a losing battle to get people to understand that the word is "normality" not "normalcy." And that this distinction is actually necessary and important given the structure and formation of rules in English grammar.
     
  10. Kenshin

    Kenshin Drifter

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    i personally dont think you did anything wrong in using the word. people my age, and others tend to have a perverted (and by this is mean strange lol) mindset. also, alot of my friends aways tend to assume the worst, or the idiots are just looking for excuses to say "naughty" words.
    therefor..... apparently my friends are stupid.
     
  11. The4thMusketeer

    The4thMusketeer New Member

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    Well, in Ireland the word 'faggot' refers to a piece of turf you throw on the fire, and a *** is something you smoke. I remember a guy in America getting into trouble with the Welsh for saying something about someone 'welshing'; they protested against the inference that the Welsh are untrustworthy. Language is a fluid thing, and will always give rise to misunderstandings. As long as you're not being deliberately offensive I don't think it matters too much, though other people's sensibilities should always be borne in mind...
     
  12. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    Heck, us Ausies abbreviate everything if we can (lol, even using Aussie instead of Australian). Talking cricket on a UK web forum, us Aussies use the term Paki to shorten Pakistan, like we say Aussie for Australia, Windies for the West Indies, Kiwi for New Zealanders etc etc. To us Paki is just the truncated version of Pakistini. But the moderators told us to stop using it as it is considered an insult in the UK.

    So while I'd hope that people would use their judgment and discretion when deciding how to interpret things, I've learnt not to expect it.
     
  13. The4thMusketeer

    The4thMusketeer New Member

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    The Paki thing is considered an insult here because it was a term the neo-Nazis used to use in the 70s and 80s i.e. 'Pakis out!', so it's the associations the word has that offend rather than the word itself, I think...:)
     
  14. Tsune

    Tsune Adorable Neko Gamer

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    Actually, what you've done there is exactly what you were advocating against. Where discriminate once meant to discern or distinguish between group and categories, prejudice also had a much different connotation many years ago.

    By saying that discrimination brings up the idea of prejudice and bigotry only serves to prove the point of this thread while also showing just how ingrained some of these things are.

    Prejudice, at it's core meaning, simply means to have a preference for something. It has nothing to do with being a bigot. Being a bigot is what makes you a bigot, not having a prejudice.

    I could say that when it comes to ice cream, I'm prejudiced toward chocolate varieties. That would then mean that when choosing a flavor of ice cream, I have a preference for chocolate ice creams. Does that make me a bigot? No. It just means I have a preference.

    Having a preference =/= bigotry. :D
     
  15. Ratamahatta

    Ratamahatta New Member

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    This is the way it goes, words change their meaning and message all the time, it's only nice when someone actually knows the older meanings which sometimes can bring greater understanding of the things said if used in the proper way and context. Otherwise one could end up in front of angry ppl and then a lot of explaining is needed. With very short words, if possible.

    PS: For instance, the first meaning in Latin of the word "penis" is "tail". Unfortunately can't really say that "the dog is wagging its penis", can we? :p
     
  16. Cyril

    Cyril Knight of the Weave

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    Well... you could.

    I just wouldn't want to do it in front of my grandmother. :)
     
  17. chimera_789

    chimera_789 Queen of Air and Darkness

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    from mirriam webster:

    dis·crim·i·na·tion
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    1648

    1 a: the act of discriminating b: the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently2: the quality or power of finely distinguishing3 a: the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually b: prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment <racial discrimination>

    synonyms see discernment

    1prej·u·dice Listen to the pronunciation of 1prejudice
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈpre-jə-dəs\
    Function:
    noun
    Etymology:
    Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praejudicium previous judgment, damage, from prae- + judicium judgment — more at judicial
    Date:
    13th century

    1: injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights ; especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims2 a (1): preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b: an instance of such judgment or opinion c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics
    synonyms see predilection


    Maybe I could have connected the dots a little more carefully and explained that bigotry is infact a stretch for prejudice just as prejudice is a stretch for discrimination. I did not make clear that although people have connected discrimination to bigotry by way of prejudice that prejudice is still not the same as bigotry and you are right in that. I'm aware they are not the same. The point I was trying to make is that each word is different and with inherently different levels of negative connotation. However, prejudice is possessed of a greater inherent negative connotation than discrimination because discrimination means first to distinguish and at its most negative means to distinguish with preference. Prejudice on the other hand involves not merely a preference but that such preference comes from a place of pre judgement. And bigotry takes prejudice and ramps up the level of negativity by adding a layer of revulsion and by representing more of a worldview than an instance of judgment.

    My point is valid and I did not contradict myself I simply left out a step in my analysis. I wanted to point out that the meaning of discrimination which is a largely neutral word has become dominated by its most negative possible usage by its overassociation with its more negative synonym prejudice which in turn has had the same thing done to it by its overassociation with bigotry. Thus because people don't discriminate enough in their word usage, what was once understood to be a largely neutral term is now thought by many to represent something similar to bigotry which is at the extreme end of the spectrum.

    This is the kind of thing that happens when people use thesauruses without dictionaries. They see prejudice at the bottom of a list considered to be synonyms (and many thes. uses that term too loosely--especially computer thes.) for discrimination and then they get to bigotry from prejudice and so the they connect discrimination~prejudice~bigotry so discrimination=bigotry which is obviously not the proper way to use synonyms and of course ends you up at a very different meaning than you started out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2009
  18. chimera_789

    chimera_789 Queen of Air and Darkness

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    And incidentally this is why I frequently write such long posts--even though people complain about it--because sometimes abbreviated thoughts are unclear, and then I have to go back and write a correction.