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Words with Unexpected Meanings


freeztar
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While looking up the definition of vicarious recently, I realized that it carries several meanings that were unknown to me.

 

* Main Entry: vi·car·i·ous

* Pronunciation: vī-ˈker-ē-əs, və-

* Function: adjective

* Etymology: Latin vicarius, from vicis change, alternation, stead — more at week

* Date: 1637

 

1 a : serving instead of someone or something else b : that has been delegated <vicarious authority>

2 : performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another : substitutionary <a vicarious sacrifice>

3 : experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another

4 : occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one <vicarious menstruation manifested by bleeding from the nose>

 

I am familiar with number 3, and 1b sounds vaguely familiar, but the rest were surprising.

 

So, what other words can you think of with surprising meanings unknown to you?

Why do words gather so many different meanings and how does this relate to their etymological roots?

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If you're allright with non-standard usage, then I'd like to submit wicked. It means, of course, "good", or "cool" - not so unexpected. But since I've lived in Maine (2 - 3 yrs) I've heard it used differently. It took me awile to figure it out. It is an adverbial intensifier, like very or super.

If you use it as an adjective, they look at you like your from Boston. This is not a nice look. :naughty:

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;)

 

Right, that was a wicked post (Obviously I'm from Boston).

That post was wicked freaking good (ah, back in Maine). :hyper:

 

Actually, it is pretty common in lots of states. It might be confusing to non-USA visitors though, because the common definition is the exact opposite of it's colloquial use in the states.

 

Words are weird. I have never understood how padre (which means "father" in Spanish) became a slang word for "cool", in Mexico. I guess fathers are cooler south of the border. :naughty:

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  • 10 months later...

A few weeks ago, I first noticed that the presenters in a TV business channel (CNBC) I watch had started using the word 'segway' as a verb in sentences like: "I thought it would be a good segway into the next section."

 

Many of the presenters used it and it was aways consistent in meaning "way to connect to".. However, it doesn't seem to appear in any dictionary as a verb, and I only ever heard it used on that particular channel. It has now been 3 or 4 weeks since I've heard it.

 

What's going on?

 

B)

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A few weeks ago, I first noticed that the presenters in a TV business channel (CNBC) I watch had started using the word 'segway' as a verb in sentences like: "I thought it would be a good segway into the next section."

 

Many of the presenters used it and it was aways consistent in meaning "way to connect to".. However, it doesn't seem to appear in any dictionary as a verb, and I only ever heard it used on that particular channel. It has now been 3 or 4 weeks since I've heard it.

 

What's going on?

 

B)

 

it is spelled "segue". it is an intransitive verb as well as a noun.

 

segue - definition of segue by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

2. To move smoothly and unhesitatingly from one state, condition, situation, or element to another
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Great answer - and so quick! It didn't occur to me it might be spelt that way. Since you knew how to spell and use it, does that mean it's part of your active vocabulary? Have you ever actually used it? It certainly wasn't in my active vocabulary.

 

B)

 

takk! B) yes; part of my active vocabulary. i do love my words. B) :bow:

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Funny thing is that the Italian verb it is borrowed from is transitive. Ya can't really follow if ya don't follow something.

 

So basically the same as flammable - not to be confused with the usual english pattern of positive: capable, negative: incapable.. etc
Resulting from confusion between the prefix in as being the preposition and a variant of un.

 

The verb inflame means "set flame (in)to" and also, figuratively, to excite strong emotion. But some took inflammable to be the opposite of "flammable" and hence coined the improper term which ended up becoming proper. According to Merriam Webster, in English inflammable only has the figurative meaning and flammable only the physical one, while the verb has both.

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The verb inflame means "set flame (in)to" and also, figuratively, to excite strong emotion. But some took inflammable to be the opposite of "flammable" and hence coined the improper term which ended up becoming proper. According to Merriam Webster, in English inflammable only has the figurative meaning and flammable only the physical one, while the verb has both.

 

So example sentences would be:

 

1. (figurative) Her remarks were harmless and therefore considered completely inflammable.

2. (physical) Be careful when handling inflammable material.

 

Is that right?

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In the safety classes I have to take every year, inflammable means that it will burn if you set fire to it; flammable means that it can spontaneously burst into flames if the ambient temperature is high enough or if the vapors from the substance contact a source of heat.

 

So gasolene is both inflammable and flammable.

A piece of dry wood, or paper, is just inflammable.

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... Why do words gather so many different meanings and how does this relate to their etymological roots?
The reason that words gather new meanings is: teenagers. :)

 

Seriously, that is one of the main reasons. Each generation attempts to distinguish itself in several ways from its parents (and other adults) through dress, mannerisms and speech. Often, old words will be given spontaneous new meanings just so the adults will be confused. That way I can tell my best friend that I got "laid" without my mother understanding that it means I had sex. :rolleyes:

 

Additionally, this can come about if the new generation "discovers" new attributes for feelings or experiences that the previous generation does not distinguish in everyday speech. Old words/phrases like "cool" and "far out" are brought in to cover these "new" insights.

 

Often, a particular social group (like doctors or the middle class) will adopt unusual words for old meanings (or vice versa) in order to "signal" that they are "in". This becomes a tool for engendering identification and trust within the group.

 

The oddity of using words in the opposite way from original meaning is not new. "Awful", in the days of King James, meant something so spectacular that it inspired awe and amazement. In subsequent generations it became used in a sarcastic way. The new king is just awful, isn't he? [nudge, nudge, wink, wink]

 

Recently, the word "composed" has been rapidly replaced with "comprised", mostly through the dual forces of wanting to sound "cool" and ignorance. They are actually complementary words. (That tie look so good on you! NOT) One can correctly say, the book is composed of eleven chapters. One can correctly say, these eleven chapters comprise my new book. But it <WAS> incorrect to say, the book is comprised of eleven chapters. Was, until now. Common usage is making that third sentence acceptable. :phones: Besides, it sounds edumacated. :cheer:

 

As a kid, it was drilled into us that you always use the word "I" as the subject, and "me" as an object, for example, that present was given to me. And therefore, it was correct to say, that present was given to you and me. But today, everybody is saying, that present was given to you and I. This was caused by the (mistaken) premise that the phrase "you and I" is always correct and "you and me" is always incorrect, or at least redneck or ignorant. Go figger. :evil:

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Definitely, much of language "evolution" is caused by ignorance being made correct by mob rule.

 

In the safety classes I have to take every year, inflammable means that it will burn if you set fire to it; flammable means that it can spontaneously burst into flames if the ambient temperature is high enough or if the vapors from the substance contact a source of heat.
Choice of convention for a specific purpose. Could become accepted as technical lingo and perhaps spread to common use.

 

1. (figurative) Her remarks were harmless and therefore considered completely inflammable.

2. (physical) Be careful when handling inflammable material.

 

Is that right?

No. A person might be inflammable, remarks might be inflammatory (but certainly not meaning they are harmless).
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  • 2 months later...

There are tons of reasons for language evolution. The biggest part is that there is no "language." Nobody has a set, perfect version of any one language. It's more like a rainbow of variations. Language is a broader word that covers tons of tiny pockets of dialects. Everything we do impacts our dialects, which can spread to the whole language or remain a dialect identifier (as in the example of how the word "wicked" is used in different areas, although I think these days that word in particular has become pretty common).

 

Languages/dialects are sort of like paint colors. Imagine Spain to be a blank slate, with a white background, and pretend just for this example that Spanish spoken in Spain is pure Spanish with no other influence. Then the moors come in. They leave their impact in pockets of Spain - we'll call their color blue. The blue shows up predonimantly in the areas the Moors settled and with whomever they traded. Later, the Goths come in. Their color can be red. Their language impact shows up similarly. Rinse, repeat. In the end, you have a canvas that is spread with lots of colors, which mostly blend in, but still have some pockets that are more vibrantly one color or another, where there is still a larger influence. Over time, these blend in with the rest. What you have left is what we call "Spanish," but has all kinds of influences within. The south-western borders of Germany have a mixed German-French language with dialects I couldn't understand even knowing both languages. In north-west south america, there are Quechua dialects and then some mingled with the Spanish spoken there, which make entirely distinct dialects that those of us who study Spanish and speak it fluently would never understand, but the people that live and interact with them do.

 

Languages are split up into prescriptive and descriptive parts: prescriptive rules are the ones your English teacher wants you to accept as "right." Descriptive rules are the ones that actually exist in the world. In a prescriptive world, the sentence "Ain't nothin' but a thang," would be non-grammatical and incorrect, but in descriptive worlds, it is a correct line because other people wouldn't look at you funny and think you were not a native speaker from this country, even though English profs everywhere will groan at you for using it. So the slang that kids and adults use, influenced by TV and technology (think of words we've developed that people actually speak now, such as "Lulz") has incredible impact on our dialects and our entire language - but, thanks to the TV and the net, these changes are happening more rapidly than ever before, and the impact is global. It's funny to sift through facebook posts by friends that speak some other language and see ramblings in some language I do not understand, but a slang word will be inserted, such as "noob."

 

I think the words that get borrowed into other language groups (or, what I'd call dialects that are so distinct as to be non-comprehensible by the other) are most commonly the ones that end up with the most surprising or unexpected meanings or usage.

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There are tons of reasons for language evolution. The biggest part is that there is no "language." Nobody has a set, perfect version of any one language. It's more like a rainbow of variations. Language is a broader word that covers tons of tiny pockets of dialects. Everything we do impacts our dialects, which can spread to the whole language or remain a dialect identifier (as in the example of how the word "wicked" is used in different areas, although I think these days that word in particular has become pretty common).

 

...snip...

 

 

In my little linguistic world "tons" is a measure of weight, not a synonym for "many".

 

:P

 

 

But all of your points are well taken.

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There are tons of reasons for language evolution. The biggest part is that there is no "language." Nobody has a set, perfect version of any one language. It's more like a rainbow of variations. Language is a broader word that covers tons of tiny pockets of dialects. Everything we do impacts our dialects, which can spread to the whole language or remain a dialect identifier (as in the example of how the word "wicked" is used in different areas, although I think these days that word in particular has become pretty common).

 

...snip...

 

 

In my little linguistic world "tons" is a measure of weight, not a synonym for "many".

 

:P

 

 

But all of your points are well taken.

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