Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That Word Never Used To Mean What You Think It Means

Back in the heady days of my youth "epicentre" was a geological term referring to the point on the surface above where an earthquake starts, and that's all it was.
I miss those days.
The Random House Dictionary defines it as: "A point, directly above the true center of disturbance, from which the shock waves of an earthquake apparently radiate."
(The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition, c. 1983, and for the record, also 1981,1979,1973,1971, 1970, 1969, 1967, and 1966.)
It is the only definition offered.
I wish it had stayed that way.

Today, online dictionaries offer a second, common use definition of  it where it is used to mean center.
It makes my soul hurt.
The prefix 'epi' is used in words borrowed from Greek and means upon, on, over, near, at, before and after. I suspect "epi" is tacked on these days as a simple modifier of center as if in some way it makes the word bigger, stronger, and more important.
Like the hard copy dictionary I consulted today, I come from a time where access was not a verb, there was no reverse engineered verb root of liaison, and literally meant literally.
Language evolves, and its a good thing, but I refuse to always evolve with it.


CARLA said...

sign me:
a fellow non-evolver.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, fellow non-evolver.

Tabor said...

I do agree. Our language is beautiful and complicated and I hate that we are moving to simpler uses of words without all those beautiful shades of gray!

Leah J. Utas said...

Aye, Tabor.

DJan said...

Interesting to watch language evolve. Or maybe it really is devolution. :-)

solarity said...

Literally is the worst one. So many people don't really mean what they say.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Hilary said...

I'm disappointed to find a definition to describe "literally" as a word used for humour and emphasis while not being "literally" true. At the very least, it should be considered slang with that faux usage. Kind of like using "bad" to mean "good." If it was only meant to be used as humour, it's failed since too many people just use it thinking they know the true meaning of the word.

Leah J. Utas said...

It is hard to tell, DJan.
Mary Anne, aye.
That's the problem, Hilary. They don't know they are wrong.