1. a small village in Medieval Europe; 2. the Crown Prince of Denmark in William Shakespeare’s play; 3. future bacon.
So…, what’s in a name?!? Words are funny things. In latter medieval days the Oxford English Dictionary recorded more than 21,800 Old English words in use, many of them amalgamations of Norse, Old English, and Latin. Between 1576 & 1650 an additional 44,500 were included, bringing the total close to 70,000. By the late Renaissance, the number of words had risen above 100,000. By the turn of the 2nd Millennium (1900) the total was closer to half a million. A Millennium later, by January 1, 2012, the OED listed 1,019,729.6 words, excluding scientific, technological, and medical terminologies.
So…, what is in a word? Putting aside prefixes, suffixes, tenses, homonyms, and nuances English is a convoluted language. Chinese may hold the record for number of characters (106,230 in the 2004 Yitizi Zidian Dictionary) but English takes the trophy for confusion. Add to that our postmodern propensity to invent meanings for conventional words on the basis of individual, personal preference and you have one “mell of a hess!”
For one, take cursing. Our media bleeps-out words like f*#k and s@%t, but uses the Name of God and Jesus Christ in profane manners. Our culture can’t even get cursing right! We extricate vulgar language and gloss over genuine blasphemy! Not worth a comment.
Aweful is another example, totally flipped in meaning in just 300 years. Once it referred to the glory and greatness of our God: today, it’s just Awful, meaning really terrible! Diddo.
George Bernard Shaw, (1856-1950) the Irish playwright, once quoted “God created man in His image and then man returned the favor.” The quote is not original with Shaw but his point is palatable. It is also transferable to language—Words evolve imbued with history & meaning; then we change their meanings to suit our fancy. Stephen Colbert’s idea of truthiness comes to mind.
Words do evolve and change in their usage over time, be it 300 years (aweful) or 2 years, “Tweet me.” Redefining words for personal pleasure should not be endured in civil society. Yet, in our postmodern/postChristian societies, we actually encourage the re-defining of words to fit our penchants. When we talk about sin the meaning should be clear. A lie is a lie, not a mis-speaking. Contracts should be written clearly, with NO questions about the meaning of its words.
Sometimes it feels like we’re dredging up the Tower of Babel because it suits our predilections.
For what it’s worth, [Whatever that means to you.]