Lacking Precision in the English Langauge

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John Doe Anita Hames Ap Language April 3, 2013 The Lacking Precision in the English Language Every day billions of conversations are held and trillions of words are spoken to one another. We use a lot of the same words that have been used for centuries. But, as time continues the meaning of these words change, become irrelevant, or lose the precision of their meaning. One could conclude that using the same words every day and so frequently we’ve become very familiar with them; they lose their meaning or their meaning changes. For example in Geoffrey Nunberg’s essay “How Much Wallop Can a Simple Word Pack,” he talks about the words “terror” and “terrorism” and how with time the words’ meanings have changed since their origin (Source 1). The word terror goes back to the time of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, where he defined the word as “nothing other justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue” (Source 1). It was also described as “the urge that draws people to the violent certainties of totalitarianism” (Source 1). The definition of the word has clearly changed in today’s world. The most common definition today is intense or overwhelming fear, but the word “terror” also has many other connotations, such as a person or animal being a “terror.” Other words, like stupid, have broadened their range of definitions as well. It was originally a reference to being unintelligent, but now it has a whole host of meanings; irritatingly silly or time-wasting, foolish, lack of meaning or sense, tediously dull, and in a state of stupor, just to name a few. However, it is to be expected that over time, words will develop new meanings and shed their old ones, for different times bring different meanings. Many years ago, the word “gay” used to mean happy or joyful, but today it refers to homosexuals and is rarely used how it once was.
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