Helen’s post, re-blogged here, got my mental wheels going on the subject of the English language. I believe it to be the world’s greatest, but it is surely the most complex of them all. While I have only studied two other languages, Latin and German, I believe English to be more dependent on context than others and it is surely richer in nuances and subtleties. As a devoted fan of crossword puzzles I am constantly amazed at the almost unlimited variations in presenting clues to the same answers.
What Helen says about the usage of “guest” and “pro-life” makes me think of another example, i.e., “home”. It has always irritated me that realtors insist on calling houses “homes”. To me, a home connotes something more than a structure, it means a place which one had adapted according to one’s own likes and lifestyle and for them to presume to sell me a home seems to usurp my privilege to take a house and make it my own. But when I go to the dictionary I see that the word “home” now includes all such variations. But that is the nature of our language, is it not?
I thought of another oddity about how our language works too. How about words like “disgruntled” and “nonplussed”? Why is it that nobody ever gets “gruntled” or “plussed”? And just think what society has done to the word “gay” since the early twentieth century! It’s enough to discombobulate anybody. I think what I need is something to recombobulate myself.
Originally posted on Helen of Marlowe's Blog:
Have we abandoned the idea that words have meaning?
In our local paper yesterday, in a story about Target being refurbished, the local “executive manager of logistics” is quoted as saying, “… it will be more inviting to our guests.”
Guests? Guests don’t pay. At least that used to be the case. What Target has is customers. And there’s nothing wrong with that word. I know that words evolve, language evolves. It made a little bit of sense some years ago when hotels began referring to their customers/clients/patrons as guests – since hotel “guests” do in fact stay overnight and eat meals, as your own house guest would do. But for Target, it seems a bit of a stretch.