3 English Words Take On Meanings That Do Not Make Sense
The English Language
There are many words in the English language that have two meanings, and many words even have more than two definitions. When English words take on new meanings that do not make sense, it is time to stop and pause.
When we speak words that do not literally make sense in the context of the particular sentence, have we undermined the notion that language is about communicating and teaching? There are rules of grammar and spelling. Popular phrases, however, often do not make sense in literal terms.
For example, picture "You the man" being spoken to a woman. The phrase means "You are great", but how would a person new to the English language understand the intended meaning of the phrase?
There are three words that further illustrate the point. These words are used by English speakers around the world.
The Word Sweet
Two definitions of the word "sweet" according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary are:
- Pleasing to the taste.
- Being or inducing one of the four basic taste sensations.
Now, think, about the ways you hear the word "sweet" being used today. Have you said the word without referring to your taste buds? Did you use the word to describe that great song on the radio the other day or the vibrant photo you recently pinned on Pinterest? There are other definitions for sweet that we use than the two outlined in the list above.
In conversations, sweet sometimes becomes a word used to describe something we really like. "Sweet coat, I want it!" and "That car is sweet with those new rims" are examples. There is no reference to one's sense of taste. Yet the new definition for sweet has been formed and is used by many English speakers.
A popular definition of "sweet" is:
- An alternative word for awesome.
Please note that here are variations on the word as well. People may draw out the "e" in the word to be "sweeeeet!" and elongate the word as "sweetness". The variations are popular as well.
The Word Sick
When you first think of the word "sick" you may associate it with a person affected by a disease or illness. When you had measles as a child, you were told you were sick.
Today, you may hear the word "sick" used in these phrases:
- Her talent is sick! Wow, she sings really well!!
- The way you dance is sick! You are so creative in your movements; I really liked your routine!
"Sick", when used in the contexts of these two sentences, refers to being excellent and above par. Sick is a compliment. The word is often used in the context of the arts, such as music and dance. The word has become a positive term, whereas several years ago it had such a negative connotation. To be sick meant to be feeling ill and having to stay home from work or school. Today, it can be a good thing to be sick!
Cool Is the Word
Cool has developed a variety of definitions for English speakers. "Cool" can refer to the temperature of your fridge or of the water in the sink. The temperature is not quite cold but is also not warm; cool falls in between the two.
Have you heard someone refer to an item that they like as "cool"? Perhaps they said:
"Cool bike, I would love to have one myself one day!"
To be called cool or to have an item of yours referred to as cool are good things! There are positive associations with the word by English speakers. The word means "Hey, I like that" or "I approve of that item".
The definition of cool as being a positive attribute for a person or an item is very different than the temperature of an item. How strange that the word has taken on the new definition that is miles away from the temperature of the water you use to brush your teeth in the morning!
These three words exemplify the reason why people learning English as a second language find the process to be difficult. There are slang words and words can be used as both adjectives and verbs. Factor in "sweet", "cool", and "sick" items to mix and there is a lot for people to learn about English.
Even people whose first language is English may have trouble keeping up with the latest definitions tagged on to words. Language varies over time and sometimes the newly acquired definitions go out of style and stop being used. What to do but shake your head and embrace the sweet trends in word definitions that surround you! Otherwise, you may not seem to be very cool!
Do You Use The Three Words?
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