Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Common Language Part II

A word that’s always fascinated me is ‘terrific’. The true meaning of this word, if one looks at the origins, and follows the rules of language, the meaning is “invokes terror”. So next time you say “That was terrific”, bear in mind that you are actually saying is “That invoked terror.”

I have heard that some parts of Europe use the word ‘terrible’ instead of ‘terrific’. This led to some mild confusion when someone told me “That band’s terrible. I love them.” Terrible would actually mean that it had the potential to invoke terror.

Its really weird how people twist the meanings of words over time.

(On a side note: No this idea wasn’t planted in my head by Terry Pratchett’s description of elves. The idea was there long before that, but when I did read it, it made me think, “Exactly!”)

(On a completely unrelated side note, it’s almost a year since Collin’s English Dictionary wanted to remove the word ‘skirr’ from the English language, saying it’s archaic and no longer in common use. I think its an awesome word (i.e, invokes awe). For those who don’t know, it’s the term used for the sound a birds wing makes as it moves through the air. The only nice formal definition I’ve been able to find is: skirr (skʉr): (v) to move, run, fly, etc. swiftly and, occasionally, with a whirring sound; (n) a whirring sound.)
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