Our ever changing language

One of the difficulties with reading an old version of the Bible – or any old document – is that words often change their meaning.

A wonderful example of how the meaning of words can change was seen in an ancient description of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

When St Paul’s was rebuilt after the great Fire of London in 1666, the architect displayed the cathedral to the king.

The king described the new building as: “amusing, awful and artificial”. Today, we would not regard those words as complimentary. But in the 17th century the word amusing meant ‘amazing’, the word awful meant ‘awe-inspiring’, and the word artificial meant ‘artistic’.

If you are a woman, how would you like it if someone described you as a ‘hussy’? Well, historically, this was not a bad word. ‘Hussy’ simply described the lady or woman of the house.

If you are a man, would you like to be told that you are a ‘bully’? The word ‘bully’ originally meant ‘superb’ or ‘wonderful.’ The old use sometimes still stands in regard to other countries when we say things like “Bully for you, Australia!”.

Another word to change its meaning is ‘fantastic’. This word has now become a synonym for ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing.’

But historically, the word fantastic meant “unbelievable, something existing solely in the imagination. Like unicorns. And fairies.”

Being told you are naughty is not nice. But ‘naughty’ originally simply meant you were short of funds. Naughty meant to ‘have naught’.

Talking of ‘nice’, even that word has changed. Coming from the Latin “nescire” (which means “to be ignorant”), the meaning of nice has ranged from simple and foolish to cowardly, elegant, and effeminate.

A rush to purchase copies of George Orwell’s famous book ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ has occurred in the United States as a result of some of the language being used by President Trump and his team.

We used to say ‘facts are sacred’, but in the Trump regime, the opposite to facts are now being called ‘alternative facts’.

Some of us might say a man who tells lies is simply ‘a liar.’

But Orwell warned there’d be a time when the people in power would use ‘double-speak.’

The hero of Nineteen Eighty Four predicted: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.”