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Then: Meaningful Words

Now: What's That Mean?

I've been thinking about language lately and how the meanings of words have changed throughout the years.  When I was young the word "net" had many meanings, but not the one most common today.  Back then, it referred to something used to catch fish or a thing to hit a ball over or that material we used to cover our hair.  Remember Aqua Net?  The most popular hairspray on the market.  When I was in high school I never went anywhere without it.    

"Net" still has those meanings but if you say the word to a teenager today, the first thing they think of is the Internet.  Far from their minds is the trapeze artist who has to walk a straight line or else fall into the net.  Teens are focused on getting online and surfing the net.  

Ah...Surfing.  Way back then (as my grandkids say) surfing always referred to a sport performed in the water.  Now we "surf" the net, not getting one drop of liquid on us, unless we accidentally spill our coffee or soda.  But really, I've learned from past experience not to keep a drink near my computer.  Also, it's not a good thing to let your dog walk on your keyboard.  But that's another story.  

How about gay?  Obviously I wasn't alive in the Gay '90's.  And just as obvious is the fact that "gay" didn't have the same connotation back then as it has today.    

If we talk about "booting up", we are referring to our computers and not to those things we put on our feet.

If someone told us to clean off up our "desktops" back in the sixties, we would quickly shove our books onto the floor and sit with our hands on the desk.  On test days we'd pick up our number 2 pencil.  Now cleaning up our "desktops"  means to rearrange the icons on our computer screen.  I know the number 2 pencil is still in use, but for how much longer?

"Virus" always referred an infectious agent that attacked our bodies.   Every year a new one made its appearance.  Today,  you mention "virus" and we rush to our  computers to make sure they have the most updated anti-virus software.

"Popup" meant something that popped out of a can and surprised us.  Having my kids pop those Jack-In-The-Boxes in my face over and over (as if each time was the first) was annoying, but not as much as the "popups" of today.  

I'm betting no one under twenty thinks of a textbook when the word "text" is mentioned.  In fact, they are probably sending text messages at the same time they are talking about sending one.  With all those beeps riding around on sound waves, criss-crossing the globe, I'm surprised it doesn't interfere with our radios and TV's.  And our brainwaves!    

And take slang words.  "Bad"  means "good."  "He has game" doesn't refer to any sport involving a ball, so to speak.   And "hooking up" has nothing to do with actual fish.  To mention just a few.  

But just as species evolve so does our language.  

I'm just hoping that no matter what we're saying to each other centuries from now, that we are still opening our mouths and letting the words flow out.  And not just communicating through IM's, emails, text messages and whatever new form of communication is waiting for us in the future.      

There will always be generational gaps.  Let's fill those spaces with the spoken word.

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