Devolution of language
The devolution of language is the often-corrosive affect that culture, primarily entertainment, computers, public schools, sports, games, literature, and politics, have on the meaning of words. Words can enter popular usage either as a term once snobbishly seen as over-demotic gains acceptance, or as a jargon or specialized term becomes popularized.
There are several modes of semantic change
- words acquire a more literal meaning and lose their more abstract connotations (narrowing)
- words acquire a more abstract meaning and lose their literal one (broadening) - so (to take an apposite example for this website) "conservative" used to mean "opposed to any change", and now describes a system of political philosophy.
These changes can take place via metaphor, metonymy, and similar processes.
Some examples include:
- "clue" now means a signifier or a piece of evidence, rather than a ball of thread or yarn.
- "word" was once a more figurative term, as in "speech", but now has a more literal connotation partly due to its common usage in the familiar "word processor" product
- "message" now means something very brief, and usually non-substantive, due to the influence of instant messaging
- "link" now means a clickable reference to another website, as well as a substantive connection, or as originally, one of the metal elements that makes up a chain.
- "liberal" once met generous or enlightened, or committed to constitutional government and individual liberty, but, in the United States, now means demanding funding for abortion and censoring prayer in school
- "media" now means the press, rather than modes of transferring information. The singular "medium" has largely been lost
- by the same token, the press now signifies the entire news industry, rather than merely the machine for transferring ink from movable type onto paper.
- "bias" now means "anything described by the opposing viewpoint that conflicts with the viewer's viewpoint" whereas it used to mean "described to fit a specific viewpoint".
- "civil rights" used to refer to ensuring equality between the races, but now, to organizations like the ACLU, it involves ridiculous causes like promotion of the gay agenda and pro-abortion rights
- "gay" once meant "noble, good", then "carefree and happy", and has taken on the meanings of dissolute, promiscuous; frivolous, hedonistic (16th century), as "homosexual" as of the 1920s, and "Foolish, stupid, socially inappropriate or disapproved of" as of the 1970s.
- Several terms meaning "weak", "weak-willed", or "effeminate male", including the word "faggot", are now proclaimed "offensive" by practitioners of the homosexual agenda.
- "nice" once meant "foolish, silly, simple", and then later "exact, pedantic" rather than its current meaning of "pleasant"
- "condescend" originally meant to forgo the privileges of rank and meet one's lessers on their level. It has been corrupted to mean "act arrogantly."
- "Pretty" used to mean nothing but "handsome, pleasant, beautiful," but has since taken on the added meaning of "moderately" or "fairly," suggesting a psychological inability to handle precision
- "Average" originally referred to a financial loss incurred due to damage to goods while being shipped between ports or cities. The word took on its modern meaning of "typical" in the late 18th century, suggesting a rise in the tolerance of mediocrity.
- "Pathetic" originally meant "moving, capable of stirring up powerful emotions." The meaning of "so piteous as to be laughable" only appeared in the early 20th century at a time when language was being emasculated by liberals.
- "Anal" originally was an adjective referring to the rectal area. Since the lunacies of Freudian terminology penetrated American English in the late 1950s, this word has come to mean "overly fussy."
- "Pride" originally referred to having a lofty view of one self or one's own, and is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Now, it is used by homosexuals to refer to their love of their own views (gay pride parades).
Devolution of language also applies to vocabulary in general. Low literacy levels fostered by liberal education systems reduce readers' ability to comprehend words commonly found in literature but not used in unintellectual entertainment and media. One report stated that the average 14-year-old's vocabulary has decreased 60% since 1945, roughly coinciding with the dominance of liberal public schooling.
- Decline from 25,000 to 10,000. Utne Reader (July–August 2000), 28-9.