Language changes

It is interesting to see how language changes, whether in the way words are pronounced or their meanings.

As far as meanings go, I can't really say things like this anymore (and probably not for more than 50 years past):

"I'm feeling quite gay today!"
"I'm feeling quite happy today!"

"Phew! I am fagged out."
"Phew! I am exhausted."

"I'm just going outside to fetch a faggot."
"I'm just going outside to fetch a bundle of sticks."

"We wish to conduct this meeting in an orderly manner, so please refrain from any ejaculations - spontaneous or otherwise."
"We wish to conduct this meeting in an orderly manner, so please refrain from any outbursts - spontaneous or otherwise."

You can often see how pronunciation has changed over the years by looking at nursery rhymes:

Goosey, goosey, gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs, and downstairs,
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers!
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

In the 16th century, it is very likely the words gander, wander, and chamber rhymed. I think the words all rhymed with gander - based on nothing more than 5 seconds of reflection.

Try it yourself, it goes much more trippingly over the tongue when you rhyme those three words (if not sounding a bit odd).

In my enunciation of English prayers and stairs rhyme.


cute posts haha. I love the language. Was thinking of talking up a linguistic course at one time. not sure if it's available in singapore though.....
Richard said…
I did take a linguistics course. I do not think it covered changes in language over time.

It primarily focussed on sounds and how those sounds are combined.

Another nursery rhyme that illustrates the sound of words has change is:

Old mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To fetch her poor dog a bone
But when she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor dog had none.

I've got a book around here somewhere by L Sprague de Camp in which he discusses language evolution.

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