Teaching grammar and writing is a fascinating job for me. I get to track down word meanings and how they change, watch the language grow. English is a flexible language, and for all the exceptions to rules, crazy spelling and grammar twists, the fact that the language develops new words to cover new experiences is exciting.
For language, that’s healthy growth. Some other words that have changed meaning or are entirely new:
Doxing. An internet practice of outing sources or protected witnesses or hackers. Usually done by other hackers.
Bail-out: Used to mean taking water out of something, like a boat, to keep it afloat. Now it means pouring public money into a Wall Street company to keep it afloat. Notice that it used to mean taking out of and now it means putting into.
Like: Used to mean “to care for or about,” but now means “I saw what you posted on Facebook and don’t want to comment,” or even “I hate what is happening to you, but showing solidarity.”
Linked: Used to mean you were probably in trouble, as in “Your name has been linked to the embezzlers.” Now it shows you know a lot of people in businesses related to yours.
Favorite: Used to mean that something was special, unique, at the top of the good heap. Now it means, “I’ve seen your Tweet, and want you to know I’ve seen it.” Often not associated with being pleased at all.
Tag: Used to be a children’s game or a piece of paper affixed to an object to give more information. Now it means grabbing attention for items that might otherwise be ignored. If you’ve ever been tagged on Facebook, you know you have to look and sometimes wish you could have ignored it.
Follow: Used to mean to walk behind someone, sometimes a bit creepy. Stalkers followed you. Now used as a path to popularity: “I have 1,500 followers on Facebook.”
Break: Used to be something bad, a result of a clumsy move. Now, if you do it to the internet, you are an instant idol, for a nanosecond or more. “Your post broke the internet, dude!”
–Quinn McDonald loves watching the language change. But she is still a stubborn user of the Oxford comma.