English language dynamic and constantly changing
While I stress out this morning as the Americans decide to protect their Republic and Constitution, or turn into a Trump-based fascist state, I thought I would comment on the letter by April J. Gibson concerning language. She did write a thoughtful letter, even if I don’t agree about her conclusions that changes in language are arbitrary and don’t have society’s permission to change.
The English language is alive and very fluid, it changes and adapts quickly. Hundreds of new words are added to the dictionaries every year. Especially in this age of instant communications, words are added, dropped, and have meaning changing at a dizzying pace. But that is the power of the English language to adapt and to adopt foreign words.
It has always adapted. If you think English is a fossil language, try reading Chaucer in its original “English” form and you would think you were reading a foreign language.
I enjoy looking up the origins of words to see how they have started and how they have changed in meaning. Take the Old Norse word, husband. When wives must obey their husbands, that is saying wives must obey the person who lives in a dwelling and owns stock. We hardly would use the word today in its original meaning.
Or the word silly; one of its original meaning was someone who deserves pity. Example, someone who is silly might believe in QAnon and deserves pity for going full on dumb.
So yes, preference has become a four-letter word to some and a weapon by social conservatives who cannot grasp science and continue to hold on to the idea that gay people have a choice in their sexuality. Who the heck would choose to be gay given the discrimination that they endure?
Preference is one of those words whose meaning has changed. It wasn’t an arbitrary change, some conspiracy against social conservatives. It changed because society has adopted its new meaning when used in context of the gay community. Its original meanings are still in vogue as would be expected. The context when it is used is the deciding factor. There was no vote on its new meaning when used in context with discussions about gays, it evolved because that is what language does.
Heck, boy is an innocent word coming like so many of our words from Latin. Use that word in the Southern States and rightly get called a racist because in that context the word becomes derogatory and an insult.
English is not a fossil language. It is alive and dynamic which is its greatest strength.
Anyone who doesn’t understand that in the wrong context that preference isn’t a weaponized word is, frankly, silly in the original meaning of that word. Because in the context of the nomination of that reactionary female to the Supreme Court who puts scripture ahead of the Constitution, and who served on anti-gay school boards, the word preference is a trigger word and seen as derogatory. Will that word change in meaning depending on the context in the future? Of course it will. It is up to us to keep up.
Robert T. Rock