The Ever-changing English Language
Over the years, the English language has changed in many ways. Through travel and colonization, the language spread like wildfire. From country to country, the dialect changed and formed different English. Of all these, American English is one of the most understood. Dominating
the United States, American English has changed majorly in meaning. Three main areas of change are hyperboles and understatements, elevation and degradation, and generalization and specification,.
The first area of change consists of hyperboles and understatements. A hyperbole is an overexaggeration. The word "awful" is a good standard hyperbole. If one was said to be "awful" in earlier days, it meant that they were full of awe or wonder; however, if someone is "awful" in this
present day, they are interpreted as terrible or ugly. An understatement is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Webster's Dictionary defines an understatement as "a word or phrase that states the truth less strongly than the truth warrants."
Simple everyday phrases like "pretty good" and "not bad" are very common understatements.
The second area of change is elevation and degradation. Words that have been elevated at one time had a negative meaning but now have a neutral or positive meaning. Degraded words once had a positive meaning but now have a neutral or negative meaning. An example of elevation is the word "marshal", which originally was a stable boy, but now refers to an official. A degradated
example is the word "villian", which once refered to a farm laborer but now relates to a bad guy or antagonist.
The third area of change involves generalization and specification. The term generalization applies to words that were once specific but now are very general. A prime example of generalization is the word "free". Once meaning "of noble...