Saturday, July 7, 2012

English: the made up language

WARNING: I'm a bit of an English nerd. 

That's not to say that I'm particularly good as spelling or that I always speak grammatically correct, but I find the language interesting. 

* For the lazy: you can just read the bolded and underlined parts, though I  think it's all pretty interesting, and since it's summer your brain could probably use a little learning  *

There are thousands of words in the english language. There are words that are spoken daily as well as words like “lollapalooza” that are rarely used. Then there are words that are considered “fake”. The thing is, who's to decide what's "fake" or not? Especially since English was built on "fake" words.

Warning: Nerdy Short History ahead!

The English Language was born in war. In the 5th century A.D. there were several clans which frequently invaded each other’s lands, mixing their cultures and languages. The Germanic languages of these tribes spoke slowly merged to form what is known as “Old English”. Later Latin was introduced through the church. French vocabulary and grammar were added into the mix due to more invasion, this time from Normandy. With so many people from different backgrounds and heritages coming together, people started creating new forms of communication. Eventually, what started out as made up words steadily became the everyday language.

The English Language didn’t stop evolving with end of the invasions. One of the most famous and prolific creators of fake words is none other than the playwright, William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is credited with having invented 1,700 words. 

These words include many that are now commonly used such as: amazement, bloody, misplaced, and luggage. Each of these words are not only spoken often today, but are also found in english dictionaries. 

Dictionaries, though used to solidify words have, however, also created fake words, also known as “ghost words”.

In 1604 2,500 English words became formally standardized as the world’s first English dictionary. Samuel Johnson in 1755 later came out with a new dictionary that defined 40,000 “hard words”. One of the main reasons dictionaries were created was to keep the English language from becoming corrupted. Yet there were mistakes made by those who wrote and formed the dictionary volumes, accidentally creating ghost words. Ghost words are “words that are never actually used as words, but somehow end up making it into other dictionaries” (watch HaleyGHoover's video "English ROCKS." on youtube).

For example, in an edition of Webster’s Dictionary in 1930, the word “Dord” was accidentally created as another term for density. What was supposed to be written was that, “D” or “d” could be used as an abbreviation for density.

Today, we continue to create "fake" words!
For example: it’s become popular to mix two words together to create a single new one like, adorkable
. Though this particular word is not included in any official dictionary yet, there are many words that started out as slang or pop culture references that have. For example, J.K. Rowling created the word “muggle” to describe people lacking magic powers in her Harry Potter books. This word was later added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 and is defined as a person lacking skills. The dictionary has also included words such as “retweeting” and “cyberbullying” to their newest addition.

Along with new words being created, the meanings of words can change with time as well. There are many words that once had one meaning that now have two or more: the word cool for example. “Cool” was used originally to describe the feeling of something cold, but is now used to describe something that is “great” or “awesome”.  The words “rule”, “neat”, “swell”, and “boss” share this meaning in common with the word cool.

Meanings can sometimes completely reverse in their meaning over time. The words wicked and bad were once only used as negative descriptions, but were later used to describe the exact opposite. People started saying things like “that is so sick!” to mean “I think that looks great” and started
replacing “awesome!” with “wicked!” instead. The Meanings of words were changing just as quickly as words themselves were.

Sorry for Geek'n out on all y'all! I just think that it's a bit ridiculous how crazy people get about language changing! It always has, and you know what. . . it always will! And I LOVE IT!