Changing Language Usage

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Jim Gamma, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    I know languages evolve, but sometimes it seems that the language usage - especially of businesses - is changing constantly. For example:

    - You no longer "buy" something (especially not online), you "purchase" it. (Use of more complex language for no real reason.)
    - On public transport, you're not a "passenger", you're a "customer". (Emphasis on the monetary transaction rather than the service being provided.)
    - You don't have a "Personnel" department, it's "Human Resources" - or indeed just "Resources". (Why would you need a euphamism for 'Personnel'?)
    - Individuals with non-standard levels of eyesight are "visually impaired" rather than "partially sighted". (Less obvious perhaps, but it emphasises the bad - they can't see as well - rather than the good - they can see a bit.)

    As I said - I know language usage changes... but why? And are there any particular changes in language use you've noticed over the years? What do you think of these trends?
     
  2. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    It's not that language evolves, it's just that it's been definitionally optimized.
     
  3. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Visually impaired in the UK has always been the preferred descriptor instead of partially sighted. I think it implies a greater range of problems. For instance someone who has some form of colour blindness is not partially sighted but they are visually impaired.
     
  4. kolibri

    kolibri Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I've noticed the use of "she" instead of "he" when referring to a non-specific, hypothetical person has become more frequent. It seemed to be the pronoun of choice in most of my computer science textbooks. I've grown to like it, even though I usually still use "he" out of habit.

    Other than that...I'm probably too young to have noticed much beyond changes in slang. Nobody says fartknocker anymore, I guess. I'm totally fine with language changing, though. There is no perfect inviolable entity known as English. The basic point is communication, everything besides that is just getting artsy fartsy about it.
     
  5. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    I'm pretty sure ITL does. In fact he probably invented it.
     
  6. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    I'm not sure I've ever heard of it. Though I think I can guess.
     
  7. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    I've heard Visually Impaired my entire life. Buy and Purchase are used interchangeably. I see people use purchase as a noun (I want to make a "purchase"), but they'll still tell you where they "bought" it.
     
  8. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    My sister still says fartknocker, and I've never heard anyone say it but her.

    As for language changing, that's just the way of things. Sometimes it changes out of trendiness, sometimes out of force, sometimes out of necessity. Sometimes the changes enrich the language and sometimes they detract from it. I think my favorite example of this is the evolution in the meaning of the word 'nice.' In Chaucer's day it meant pretty much the opposite of what it means now; 'nice' to Chaucer meant unpleasant and overbearing. It evolved from there to mean strict, austere, and orderly -- from there it came to mean clean and neat -- and from there it evolved to our current definition.

    I also read once that the word 'ask' was originally pronounced 'ax'.
     
  9. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Nice as an adjective either meant foolish in ME or, as Chaucer used it to mean precise and punctilious.

    Ask is from OE áscian so the 's' came first except in later dialects.
     
  10. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0aB-f_pHfs[/yt]
     
  11. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Buy and Purchase are interchangable.

    When travelling on public transport whilst being a passanger, if you have paid for a ticket you are also a customer. The service they provide is transportation.

    I've head HR referred to as People Services.

    Though the next question to ask, do other languages evovle as much (or as quickly) as English
     
  12. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    You already pointed out why with your two neat examples of political correctness and corporatization, languages reflects cultural changes.
     
  13. Shazam!

    Shazam! Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's pretty much always been HR in the UK. Personnel sounds a bit Gordon Gekko.
     
  14. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Interesting, may I ask your resource? Mine was a Linguistics text...though I'll readily admit it's been awhile since I studied linguistics, I don't think I misremembered that particular progression of meaning.
    I know I read that particular tidbit in a Wikipedia article, so I won't defend its accuracy!
     
  15. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    My resource is the OED (plus my memory).
     
  16. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    ^I'll chalk it up to two good sources (respective texts) and two unreliable sources (respective memories) in minor contention, then. :)
     
  17. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Using a more complex word where a simpler word will do makes people feel smarter -- or at least like they're doing something important. It's also easier to use a single umbrella term instead of a word with a more specific meaning.

    For example: Nowadays, nobody has problems, troubles, difficulties, conflicts or obstacles. Instead, they're all "issues."

    And why does absolutely everything have to be an "experience"? I don't know how many times I've heard or read the phrase, "If you are experiencing technical issues . . ." Is that anything like having technical problems?

    Businesses started calling their personnel departments "Human Resources" back in the 1970s. That pretentious term always makes me think of Soylent Green.

    The term "partially sighted" is still quite common. But there's always the old euphemism treadmill. People who were once called "feeble-minded" became "mentally retarded," then (ugh!) "mentally challenged." Et cetera, et cetera.


    As you noted, there's that annoying tendency to use complex words instead of simple ones -- mostly by people who aren't even aware they're doing it. And there's the habit of adding the suffix "-ize" to just about anything.

    "The government should incentivize the private sector to create jobs." Uh, what's wrong with encourage or motivate?

    I can't take a business seriously if it calls its personnel department "People Services." It's just too twee.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  18. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Yeah but my memory includes four years of an MA in English Language.

    This is of course offset by senile dementia but they always say you remember the old stuff but not what happened an hour ago.
     
  19. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Where are my specs? I have to listen to the Shipping Forecast.

    Is this Facebook? It looks funny today.
     
  20. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's a bit of a misconception that Human Resources departments departments are simply renamed Personnel departments, Personnel departments were largely administrative functions. HRM grew out of Human Resource Accounting and the idea that the person is a resource to be used up as much as possible for as little cost to the business as possible - the underlying concept is far more sinister than anything that was done by old fashion personnel departments.

    The distinction is useful because it's a discussion of two overlapping but distinct concepts.
     

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