why do words fall out of disfavor

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by birch, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. birch Valued Senior Member

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    Why does even suitable words that were used for communication fall out of disfavor every generation replaced almost entirely in even a few decades, let alone a century?

    I just recall seeing the word 'repose' and you will never hear that word in spoken conversation and rarely written.

    Or expressions such as 'by golly' which im sure at one time were not used as a patronizing poke at nostalgia but to express surprise.

    The emotions seem basically the same but the words are replaced eventually to express the same or similar.

    I can only speculate two reasons. The first being that the nuance of the word even if trivially minor does not fit the times, even if the jist or core is the same.

    It also seems to be a rather form of prejudice for certain expressions or words to fall out of disfavor (though non-offensive) that were commonly used it seems. Perhaps it represented a certain social group/status, subculture of the time?

    It always surprises me how language changes so much (when communication was unproblematic before) for apparently no reason at all. It doesnt seem there is a valid reason because its not always for the better. Communication as in vocabulary is not better today aside from just faster communication with acronyms.

    Also, why is spoken communication so often different than written? As in the vocabulary?

    Its as if its some unstated rule or manner to not communicate so precisely in person or conversation but only acceptable to do so in written form. You can hardly really describe actual things or events in black and white, good and bad etc that most use. Like when you ask a question, people will answer in the most general terms ever which isnt saying much of anything. The constant and overused 'it was bad or it was good' to describe everything and anything is like saying you were in north america when i ask on what street were you on in new orleans during mardi gras.

    Also, why is there a paradox of progress in one area simultaneously seemingly regress in another aspect of society? When all aspects are supposed to either progress (better, not just change) or at least remain static until it progresses again.

    For instance, our vocabulary today is not only smaller but much less nuanced and sophisticated in choice of words for communication. It tends to be very flat and general emphasizing little texture or ambiance just like describing both a house and a slice of bread as a square or rectangle. Thats how it comes across, missing everything but the bare bones.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Because of the composition of that sentence, which should read "fall into disfavor".

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  5. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Tell me, what is your mother tongue (first language)? It does not seem to be English and in this context it may help us to know.
     
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  7. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    The young generations generally want to set themselves apart from their parents. So they use different words, or use words differently than before.

    Similarily, words that have been in use for a long time become bland, and writers or speakers who want to show off, try to use less mainstream words.

    Language is a living thing. At the one end words age and die, and at the other end, new words are brought up and become used freshly. And some old words are revived at times, just before they die.

    Two more thoughts:

    Society as a whole changes. These days words for speed and efficiency are important, in the past words for slow, but very precise work also had been important. But slow has come out of fashion these days, and many words which are linked to "slow", even if they also mean "carefully done, precise, high quality" are not liked anymore, just because, well, they also imply slow. I can't give good examples in English, but I have some in my mothers tongue. So I can only present the overall idea here.

    I find it very interesting to observe which words come into use, and which are faded out. I see this as a mirror or society, words which fade are no longer needed by the society, and new words show where at least some parts of society are heading to. To me, langauge research is a meta instrument for social research - people talk and write about the things which are important to them, and so by studing the use of words, one can find out what is important to the speakers and writers (and vice versa, see which words are no longer needed, because peoples interests have changed).
     
  8. birch Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah i had caught that, meant to say 'fall out of favor'
     
  9. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    The only two adjectives we have left are "massive" and "awesome".
     
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  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    What about "epic"? My son uses this (wrongly) all the time, to describe anything that makes a favourable impression on him.
     
  11. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    He should be saying "Awesome!"

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  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Pronounced "arse-some", I presume, as it is across the Atlantic?

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    Perhaps "epic" is a UK thing: "Yo, man, it's epic".
     
  13. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    It seems that
    "Babe"
    has fallen out of disfavor
     
  14. birch Valued Senior Member

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    Sure, because every born and bred american has a perfect command of the english language as the public school system of ejumecation will attest.
     
  15. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You wrote the following (my tentative corrections in square brackets): "Why does [do?] even suitable words that were used for communication fall out of disfavor [favour?] every generation [to be?] replaced almost entirely in even [ even within?] a few decades, let alone a century?

    Hence my question.
     
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Of course I have used the phrase "that's cool" may times to indicate something that's really *hot*.
    But as English is my second language and I often refer to the dictionary to find the correct word for clarity, I noticed that old (early)words have the most definitions, whereas newer words often have just a specific meaning.
    One exception is the newer word *interface* which was originally used for linking computers, but is now used for anything that is *connected*.
     
  17. birch Valued Senior Member

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    But you still knew what i was asking which also highlights how language may change in structure/grammar eventually.

    I recall old english as very different in sentence structure.
     
  18. birch Valued Senior Member

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    If the meaning of a word has developed to a full and distinct meaning, why would it just fall to the wayside or disappear? Its most useful then. Rather bizarre that the most ripe words would be ignored.

    Also, what words in the dictionary are never used anymore and why?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    So, what IS your mother tongue?
     
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    It might be a result of economy so speech: express the sentiment and meaning as quickly and as simply as possible. This is what electronic communication has tended us toward, I feel, and the relative fast pace of modern lives makes being articulate and prosaic of little added benefit. Text-speak might only exacerbate the matter.

    When we write articles, letters and such, however, we can express ourselves as fully and as verbosely as we choose, unhindered by the need to be quick. We can be more precise, more specific in the choice of words, ensuring we use a certain adjective to describe it just so, rather than use one simply to express a basic sentiment that would suffice when talking directly.

    As a result some words simply fall by the wayside, and I would imagine that it becomes an almost exponential decline after that. And perhaps some words get picked up again to refer to just one aspect of their former use.

    Language is changing all the time. Our society changes and our language and primary vocabulary changes as a result, whether it be socio-economic influences, foreign cultures, the fad of the day. So I don't mourn the loss of words within general circulation; as long as one person is still using the word then it is at least not lost, and if it does become lost then I would be among those that were not using the word, and thus can not claim to miss it.

    Personally I find language to be fun: language is a clay to mold, a palette of colour with which to paint your verbal picture. I may lack nimble hands for the clay, or only have a limited palette and apply it with a rather wide brush, but language is rich and verdant, and enjoyable to explore.

    That said, I also harbour some prejudicial thoughts about people who tend to the use of such banalities as "amazeballs", or who literally use "literally" in a most unliteral manner. A friend of mine keeps referring to his friends as "dudes!" - which from a person of his age just sounds humourously tragic.

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  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Today, we call it Anglo-Saxon rather than "Old English." The Norman French invaded Britannia in 1066 and ruled it for several centuries. Since French became the language of commerce, government and scholarship, hundreds of French words were absorbed into what soon became Middle English. But moreover, the grammar, syntax and phonetics of Anglo-Saxon were twisted to be much more like French grammar, syntax and phonetics.

    We can read Middle English with a little preparation and a lot of patience. But it would have been very difficult for a speaker of Middle English to understand Anglo-Saxon. (I didn't say "read" because literacy was restricted to the priests, diplomats and aristocrats in the centuries before the printing press--for the very good reason that there wasn't very much to read.)
     
  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    That's right, everybody now likes Babe again.

    (pssssst........Babe, you never entered *into my disfavor*)
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Considering that the most famous "Babe" was the big blue ox in the legend of Paul Bunyan, created by loggers in the 19th century, it's not a name that will quickly be forgotten. But it might not be appreciated as a nickname for a loved one--or any woman, for that matter.

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    On the other hand, "Babe" Ruth (George Herman Ruth) was one of the most famous baseball stars of all time. He died 68 years ago but two of his many records have still not been broken. It might be more appreciated as a man's nickname.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016

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