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November 25, 2011

In Bad Taste - Disgusted

Words change meaning over time and we might read a word in a classic piece of literature, Shakespeare for example, and find that...

...a word has lost its meaning or has taken on an entirely new meaning.

You can usually tell how a word's meaning has changed by how it is used in a sentence.

Here's one example, the word "disgust," in its earliest usage, was used to express distaste for rotten food or filth.
Today it means a far more generalized dislike or contempt for someone or something. But it originally came into English in 1601 from the Old French "desgouster" meaning distaste, loathe or dislike, in the sense of giving a bad taste to one's mouth.

In other words, the original meaning had a more visceral, almost sensual aspect to it. Over time it has taken on a tone more moral than sensory.

Currently when one is offended by something, this word might emerge.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives us this definition: "Disgusted n. Brit. (usually humorous or depreciative). Originally as a self-designation: a member of the public who writes anonymously to a newspaper expressing outrage about a particular issue. Hence more widely: a person who is vocal and indignant in his or her opposition to something."

As I mention in my closing, I write for a major daily newspaper in my area. I also encourage my students to do this.

I tell them that if they cannot come up with a topic, they should read a newspaper or magazine. I guarantee them that they will find something that will infuriate - or disgust - them.

This is a great writing exercise, one that forces us all to me more clear and focused in taking a position on a topic that matters to us.

Putting our ideas together - especially in a public form - is wonderful practice - and it reminds us all of how much we have yet to learn.

Send us any words or phrases that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world.

Posted by mmorf at November 25, 2011 10:41 PM

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