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Burn Your Dictionaries - DreamRebel - 03-04-2016 03:20 PM

There are a few words that have no meaning.

Petty, always meant "Low in importance, but high enough in importance to be complained about." Legally speaking, that's it. Politically speaking (And by politics I mean in any case where people argue about something other than what they should have for dinner) it is reduced to an insult. In short, the new definition is "of anybody who would find fault in my way of doing things"

Normal and weird, for another example have had their meaning eroded. While there was once a time when they meant what the dictionary said they meant, their connotations have become their definitions.
Normal, for example can mean:
  • What generally happens or what is supposed to happen (The real definition, but Lord above knows that some people think they mean this, but actually don’t.)
  • Good (Oh for Pete’s sake, the word “normal” has no real alignment!)
  • Boring (See above)
  • Totalitarian (See above above)
  • A word describing anybody but you. (Mostly meaning this when used by your parents.)
Weird mostly means either quaint or icky when an actual person uses it. As with before, little attention is paid to its actual meaning.

Any other words you guys have noticed have drastically different meanings when used in conversation as opposed to how they're supposed to be used?

Burn Your Dictionaries - Dead - 03-04-2016 09:15 PM

The meanings of words change over time.

Burn Your Dictionaries - DreamRebel - 03-04-2016 09:39 PM

Of course they do, sheesh. Although it's not like people even noticed with a lot of them, not to mention that the meanings are important and we've yet to elect words to replace them.

Burn Your Dictionaries - brainiac3397 - 03-05-2016 03:12 AM

But I use 3 dictionaries. Webster, Oxford, and Cambridge. I tend to prefer the Oxford one but will use Webster if necessary. Cambridge usually serves as the tie breaker.

RE: Burn Your Dictionaries - no - 03-05-2016 01:53 PM

You think that's bad?

RE: Burn Your Dictionaries - DreamRebel - 03-06-2016 03:55 AM

(03-05-2016 01:53 PM)no Wrote:  You think that's bad?

Whoa! And I can se just how it went haywire too.

RE: Burn Your Dictionaries - vonunov - 03-06-2016 07:05 AM

Wiktionary and Oxford say that petty's "disparaging meaning develops during the 16th century" and and its "sense 'of small importance' [as opposed to size] dates from the late 16th" -- are you sure this is an especially new usage?

But that's only a side note. I could have the wrong idea on that, but what I really want to get at is how I think you've almost spotted your own mistake in considering this. Since I find the 'petty' thing questionable it's easier if I focus on the normal/weird thing for this.

Quote:While there was once a time when they meant what the dictionary said they meant, their connotations have become their definitions.

Here's where we diverge. I agree that there can be strong connotations for this word, but I don't see that they have taken the place of or joined the definition. I see it used a lot as good/rigid/drab/whatever else, but this usage, it seems to me, is communicated in the context, the tone/inflection when you're describing something as "normal", body language ... and analogues in text ... We add these subtexts to our communication and yes, a different usage of a word like that can and has become *the* usage while the original meaning dropped out of use. I think this has not yet happened here.

I think it's fallacious to try to talk about the "actual meaning" of something while ignoring the true source of the meaning, that is, the usage. The field of linguistics follows the real usage to determine the rules, system, meanings of things, and when the usages you're describing become ... I'm not a linguist, I don't know ... more like whatever the standard is for a *definition* and not the *connotation* I'm seeing today, then you may see it in the dictionaries.

For now, you can see even in more 'liberal' dictionaries that I find tend to be a little less formal about which usages they list, that they seem to stick so far with the normal definition of normal Biggrin, though you can see that they give a nod to the connotational potential of the word, mentioning that people can be offended in various contexts at being categorized as 'normal' or not. So these dictionaries also seem to agree with you that this kind of usage of the word happens, but also with me that these connotations do not constitute something like a definition.

Quote:Any other words you guys have noticed have drastically different meanings when used in conversation as opposed to how they're supposed to be used?

And here, I think, is the rest of the problem. In the dictionary definition there's not context, motivations, desires, feelings ... When the dictionary is telling you what 'normal' is, it's just straight-up, clinical. It isn't the same thing as later when you're describing whether something is normal, and at that time maybe you have the *desire* that it be normal or not normal, maybe this can influence how you say the word, whether it means a bad thing for you or a good thing. Normal still means what it means about the thing you are describing, but then there is the other thing you're communicating, which is what you think of the normalcy.

Everything we need will arise from the common usage; there will be no need for an election Razz

Burn Your Dictionaries - DreamRebel - 03-06-2016 08:01 AM

And oooh I love that word "pettifogger." Both literally and metaphorically, it's sort of what I'm talking about.