O is for Old Words with New Meanings

As a word lover, I noticed yesterday that some words change their meanings over time. Like dude. It used to mean a gussied-up cowboy or ranch hand. Now it means wow or c’mon or I hear you or unbelievable.

As I made a list of words with changed meanings I realized many of them apply to gay people. The word gay used to mean happy (the gay 90’s) until it meant homosexual.  Queer went from strange to homosexual. Faggot went from a small log (it was a Camp Fire Girls badge) to homosexual.  Pride went from generic to gay specific. Then there is queen, drag, trans, tranny, all that, too.

Getting away from terms used for gay or transgender people, we find in the tech world a new meaning for google, which used to be spelled googol and used to mean 10 to the 100th power. Amazon used to mean a large tribal woman or a river in South America.  Prime used to mean of the best quality as in prime ribTweet used to be the sound a song bird made.

Our words for things that are awesome changed, too.  Awesome came about in the eighties (from a TV show) to mean cool.  Other words for cool over the decades were groovy, swell, neat, rad, the bomb, and sick.

“Are you sick? So sorry.”

“That’s so sick. I love it.”

Slang words for body part words have changed. I didn’t realize it until Two Broke Girls laughed about her box. It goes along with his package, which used to be referred to as the family jewels, or even earlier, Is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Www.urbandictionary.com is filled with stuff like this.

Every decade new words are invented and put into use by people who influence the rest of us: politicians, celebrities, sports heroes, and TV and movie stars. Think of famous movie lines that say one thing but have a specific meaning to something else. “I’ll have what she’s having” is the classic example. When the old lady in the restaurant watches Meg Ryan fake an orgasm while sitting at her table in the film, When Harry Met Sally. Those are the words she utters to her waiter.

That leads into the changing code words for sex: hooking up, sock it to me, give it to me, let’s get it on, doing the deed, doing the horizontal tango, cha cha (whatever), putting up a shelf, bumping uglies, fade to black, and dot dot dot.

Language is an ever-changing animal where rules morph over time depending on usage. Whoever would have thought that my bad would come to mean oops, I screwed up — sorry.

Or I feel you would come to mean I understand what you are saying? Or that gang bangers would mean street thugs?  Those of us who keep up with popular culture hear these newly-coined expressions on TV, in the movies, newspapers, magazines, and while out and about.

I’ve got your back now means I’m there for you if you need me.

Lately I’ve heard the term hard pass repeatedly, used to mean no thank you. Where did it come from? I don’t know but need to find out.

Young people don’t say you’re welcome anymore. Instead they say no problem, which is inherently changing the greeting from a courteous pleasantry to somehow making it all about themselves, at least from a Baby Boomer’s point of view in that, you didn’t inconvenience me that much.

Baby Boomer, Millennial, Generation X, AI, Blue-Ray, POTUS, SCOTUS, the terms go on and on. What will they be twenty years from now? Will people still say Dude when something goes well, goes badly, or you meet someone on the street that you are happy to see?

Or will we say something completely foreign to our 2019 ears?

Beam me up, Scotty?

Or You’re so lasagna?




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