Annoying spelling, galling grammar, irksome words, frustrating phrases

You could but they have different uses too. Both those words are more precise than 'referenced'. A quote is a direct use of a passage of an older work - usually text. A citation is a more like an appeal to authority "Don't just take my word for it here's someone else who says the same, or whose conclusions I am using as evidence or the basis for my assertions". A reference is more ephemeral. In painting it would be the use of a pose say, one of the most famous (and most often cited) is that of Manet’s Olympia which clearly references Titian’s Venus of Urbino.

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Manet’s painting is not a direct quote, or a citation, a copy, or a pastiche of the older work but it references it. Manet used and changed elements of a very familiar image to say something confrontational and shocking. This was a very controversial painting in its day. Back then people did not explicitly paint prostitutes (there are lots of visual clues in the work which would have been blindingly obvious to the contemporary audience) and then pose them in direct reference to a famous painting of a goddess. Shocking stuff.
One could say that the later painting alludes to the earlier one.

Saying in an article that the later painting "references" the later one would be likely to distract me with the thought that the writer is a recent or current one influenced by pop journalism and/or academic signaling. John Ruskin, Roger Fry, Kenneth Clark, or Robert Hughes wouldn't have used "referenced" thus, unless I'm mistaken. Why then should we get on the bandwagon?
 
One could say that the later painting alludes to the earlier one.

Saying in an article that the later painting "references" the later one would be likely to distract me with the thought that the writer is a recent or current one influenced by pop journalism and/or academic signaling. John Ruskin, Roger Fry, Kenneth Clark, or Robert Hughes wouldn't have used "referenced" thus, unless I'm mistaken. Why then should we get on the bandwagon?

Because - and I suspect this is where this kind of conversation always ends up - language changes. It adapts to meet the needs of the people who use it. Jargon words and slang escape their ghettos and become mainstream. Once common terms have vanished over time. People make jokes and play with meanings. Words aquire offensive connetations, and lose them too, New things, physical and abstract, are invented and adopted requiring new words and usages. Some words are imported from other languages (some attached to the wrong things). People are sloppy. Language is sloppy. Fun isn't it?
 
Language does change, readily heading for a decline in precision and a loss of hard-won nuance because people are lazy and conceited. This tendency compromises the ability of writers and speakers to evoke fine shades of meaning. Again and again nothing is gained by new uses of words (e.g. when "unique" only means "unusual"; now what do we say when we really mean "unique"?) except a meretricious and short-lived pizzazz. Without implying anything about politics, human relations, etc., I'd say we lost something when "gay," so useful for poets to express a specific kind of cheerfulness, was appropriated for a new social use. The same thing has happened with "queer," though by citing this one too I don't mean to pick on any one group (except journalists and academics, chronic offenders). Others can get on the bandwagon with the rest of the cool kids and use words in the cool new ways; not me. I hope others will rebel with me.
 
Language does change, readily heading for a decline in precision and a loss of hard-won nuance because people are lazy and conceited. This tendency compromises the ability of writers and speakers to evoke fine shades of meaning. Again and again nothing is gained by new uses of words (e.g. when "unique" only means "unusual"; now what do we say when we really mean "unique"?) except a meretricious and short-lived pizzazz. Without implying anything about politics, human relations, etc., I'd say we lost something when "gay," so useful for poets to express a specific kind of cheerfulness, was appropriated for a new social use. The same thing has happened with "queer," though by citing this one too I don't mean to pick on any one group (except journalists and academics, chronic offenders). Others can get on the bandwagon with the rest of the cool kids and use words in the cool new ways; not me. I hope others will rebel with me.

When do you date the start of this decline in the English language? I'm not sure the word gay was 'appropriated' it was certainly in use in 1950s demi-monde (for instance I was surprised to see it in use to mean homosexual without any kind of need for explanation or comment in Nial Kent's 1951 novel The Divided Path). It just emerged from the shadows with the growth of queer politics. On the other hand 'Queer' was actively and deliberately appropriated, along with other insults like 'dyke' which my older lesbian friends used to wear with pride. Queer had changed its meaning over the years from meaning peculiar, odd, or strange to being an insulting term for a homosexual man. I'm sure you regret its changing meaning to be a denigrating term but that wasn't a recent change. When I was a kid, 50 years ago, lines like, '"I say, he's a queer looking chap," said one of the Secret Seven,' got sniggers. At what point do you fix a word like 'queer' and say, this is its meaning and it will never change?
 
Then/than. Not sure if this is a typo from speed-posting on Social Media, but it's something that trips me up, and then be-seethes me.

Re: Queer Gay et al. I think there's an element of time perspective, too. As pointed out the words have been applied to the queer community in recent times, but we still know their provenance as it's within living memory. Thus when you hear Calamity Jane* sing the word 'gay' or look at film titles such as The Gay Divorcee, you just put it into context of the day it was made. Anecdotally, even the young kids I teach (from year 7 upwards) tend not to laugh at the use of the word gay or queer if I show them something old on TV/play as they're canny enough to know it has two meanings, depending mostly on date.

Also I agree about language changing, but IMO "I could care less" will never be acceptable :D. When the logic is so clear as to what it means, what it's meant to mean, and what it actually does mean, I feel embarrassed for the person saying it.

Thinking about this thread, and the common trigger (to us oldies) about English language, two things seem to be going on here. Our generation and older tend to be just-so (maybe?) as a result of the relentless thrashing we got regarding English at school, and to then see them summarily dismissed by a successive generation, is hard to accept. I always thought I was immune to this as I am so saturated with yoof culture but lately, I've seen companies and proprietorships with many errors (typos, comprehensive and homophones) on their professional literature.

The other thing it comes down to is (for me) the annoyance of overcomplicating existing words, or rebranding them to sound as if they are more feely-touchy, or to imply a gravitas that isn't there. This is the problem I have with conversate, reached out, upcycle, etc etc.

I'm rewatching The Expanse atm and was considering the Belter pidgin they use. It's so much more complex and sophsticated than the W.African pidgin or Jamaican patois I know and I think that's because its creolising many countries. I expect langauge to go this way at some point, generally, if not wholly. Speaking of West Africa and the Caribbean, it's very common to hear some really archaic sentence constuctions and old Englinsh words when there. Particularly in Barbados where historically there was a strong sense of connection to the Crown. And my ex partner (Ghanaian) would often use old constructions which were delightful to hear. He said something today that had me howling and asking if he was auditioning for that period drama TV series (I can never remember its name but it has Dame Maggie Smith in it!).


*I'm aware how ironic this might be as an argument bearing in mind the qmount of queer coding in CJ :D
 
When do you date the start of this decline in the English language?
Well, I was agreeing with you that the tendency has (presumably) always been for speakers and writers to use language in such a way that needless ambiguity of meaning is allowed to slip in, on one hand, and, on the other, for hard-won nuance to be eroded.

In some cases probably only scholars with a lot more knowledge of old-time bad usage than most of us have, would be aware of struggles to preserve useful meanings against contemporary misuses, when the latter succeeded in their effort to preserve those meanings. But I'd assume that the problem we're talking about goes back for centuries in English. I didn't mean to give the impression that I thought this problem is just 50 years old or so. My examples were taken from my own lifetime (I'm about 70).
 
Well, I was agreeing with you that the tendency has (presumably) always been for speakers and writers to use language in such a way that needless ambiguity of meaning is allowed to slip in, on one hand, and, on the other, for hard-won nuance to be eroded.

In some cases probably only scholars with a lot more knowledge of old-time bad usage than most of us have, would be aware of struggles to preserve useful meanings against contemporary misuses, when the latter succeeded in their effort to preserve those meanings. But I'd assume that the problem we're talking about goes back for centuries in English. I didn't mean to give the impression that I thought this problem is just 50 years old or so. My examples were taken from my own lifetime (I'm about 70).
Indeed, the only language which doesn't change is a dead language. My father was the son of Dutch immigrants who spoke Dutch at home. They immigrated circa 1920. Fast forward 45 years and my Dutch relatives from the Netherlands were continually laughing at their American cousins because they spoke Dutch in such an archaic way. To put it succinctly: "To be living is to be evolving."
 
JunkMonkey wrote, " I'm not sure the word gay was 'appropriated' it was certainly in use in 1950s demi-monde (for instance I was surprised to see it in use to mean homosexual without any kind of need for explanation or comment in Nial Kent's 1951 novel The Divided Path). It just emerged from the shadows with the growth of queer politics."

A few days ago I ordered the compact Oxford English Dictionary -- the one you have to use with a magnifying glass. I should have bought one decades ago. But as it dates to the 1970s, I'm not sure it will trace the earliest uses of "gay" and "queer" for their common uses today.

(Here goes -- hope I can be concise) I'm sympathetic to Owen Barfield's idea of the "evolution of consciousness" as shown by the history of language. In primordial times it seems the distinction between myth, history, and fact had yet to develop not because people were "primitive" (=ignorant, flea-bitten semi-animals) but because they experienced "ancient unities" that are mostly lost to us now. The "evolution" in question has given us increasing definiteness, including the sense each of us has of himself or herself as a distinct, even isolated, person, with a correlative loss of participation in the world. The change is indicated by the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek pneuma. Anciently they mean breath-wind-spirit because these things that are three things for us were one thing for them. So as the distinct meanings develop, a greater precision of abstract thought is possible, with a correlative loss of awareness of the unity of oneself and the world. OK. This idea, which I have lived with for many years now, is part of the background of my thought.

So let's just take it that in each period there are people who sense distinctions that are mostly overlooked or anyway not articulated by others. They may change language in good ways. When the words meaning deer today have developed to refer to hoofed ruminative ungulates of the family Cervidae, and other words are used for other animals, a gain in precision is possible as compared with when deer had a much larger reference. Now, if people started referring to moose, caribou, giraffes, etc. as deer, what word would we use when we meant deer specifically? There would be a real loss of meaning.

So gay used to refer to a sense of carefree, light-hearted wellbeing. Do we have a word that means just that state of consciousness? But it is compromised by the usage that has become common in the past few decades. As someone who has read a lot of older poetry, I regret the loss.

It comes down to this. When a word is used to express something otherwise not quite expressible, such as the state of consciousness indicated by "gay," it is valuable and we should conscientiously try to retain that meaning against usage that erodes it and leaves us at a loss for just that shade of meaning. Again, we have no one word that means what unique means, so it's bad to use the word to mean "unusual," "exceptional" -- we already have words that do that job!

Thus I dislike the use of reference as a verb when we already have the verb forms of to refer (and cite, allude, etc.) to do the job for which "reference" is being appropriated. There's no need for the change but there's a small loss of meaning when it is made.

The deliberate use of they, them, their for individuals really exasperates me. I should have saved the excellent example of the compromise of meaning I spotted a while back. Yes, I know that Jane Austen did this somewhere. It's still a solecism. (I should say -- I'm thinking of writing. In ordinary casual conversation the use of plurals for individuals is usually not a big deal.)

I'll close with a personal example. A couple of well-meaning people have kindly called me a scholar. That's nice of them but I'm not a scholar. For one thing, I know only my native language. Surely a true scholar knows multiple languages. What to call someone who reads a lot, writes about books a lot (but is not a scholar)? I admit I can't think of a word that gets exactly what I mean. If that's really the case, then we need a new word. Someone want to be a public benefactor and suggest it? Bookster would be acceptable to me personally but I don't think it would fit some people of this type.

Also we need a word for objects that you don't recognize when you are looking right at them, like when you open the fridge and look right at the mustard and don't perceive it.
 
I have a copy of the 'Comes with a Magnifying Glass' OED from the 1970s - it's a printing of the 1933 OED - and you're right, it says nothing about the current common use of "gay". But then it was a book written by academics who probably spent more time reading Pope and Thackery than hanging around noting what kind of language prole oiks like me were using. No Henry Higginses they.

My copy of Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (which I can thoroughly recommend - who knew there were so many words for schtupping?) says gay in the current common meaning dates to the thirties. Both it and the OED note an earlier, late 18th to late 19th century, meaning: 'a woman leading an immoral life, working as a prostitute'. So a simple sentence, "She was gay," had a possible double meaning (or delicious ambiguity) even before Gay Lib in the seventies changed it yet again.

The OED provides other definitions too. Definitions like: 'addicted to social pleasures and dissipations', and 'of loose or immoral life', 'brilliantly good', and (strangely) 'a picture in a book'. As a 'dialect' word (though which dialect the book doesn't say) it meant 'in good health'. Gay did, as you say, 'refer to a sense of carefree, light-hearted wellbeing' but all those other things as well.

Your deer question is simply answered by the fact that yes, the word 'deer' may broaden to include moose, caribou, etcetera but the word 'deer' doesn't exist on its own. As it broadens out to 'any animals that are a bit like deer' it adds modifiers to close the gaps and we get Red Deer, Roe Deer, Reindeer, etc. So the language becomes more specific not less. When someone says 'deer' to me I think of bloody big Red Deer because those are the ones that I have locally. (Do not hit with car - it's expensive.) If you said 'deer' to someone who lives elsewhere else in a more densely populated part of the UK they might think of much smaller Muntjac, or Fallow Deer, or whatever their more commonly local species are. (Fleshy speedbumps by comparison to my local driving hazards.) 'Deer' is not a precise term.

'Unique' will still retain its meaning. At some point its use as a synonym for "unusual" or "exceptional" will fade again as people get bored with it and find some other buzzword. I look forward to the day when 'hilarious' stops meaning 'mildly amusing at best' and book reviewers find another word to flog mercilessly. When was the last time you heard something described as 'smashing'?

I can sympathise with the 'they', 'them', 'their' usage for individuals. I'm in my mid sixties and I find them disconcerting. Both my daughters' flatmates use those fuzzy pronouns and one of my son's high-school teachers is a trans man who uses them too. I sometimes have to scrabble to keep up with who exactly is being talked about sometimes. (In the case of my son's teacher it's doubly disconcerting because I used to date them when they was a she.)

Words we need (and already probably exist in German) for me include one to describe that moment when you realise you are whistling, humming, or singing the last thing you heard played on semi-subliminal supermarket muzak.
 
John Waters was on the Bill Maher show last Friday. He was in top form, unrepentantly crude and outrageous; the best interview with him I've ever seen, perhaps. The Missus and I were laughing hysterically through the whole 15 minute bit.

The topic of "woke" and the sub, sub, sub, catargorization of gender identities and pronouns arose.

John Waters said, "I don't know how to masturbate to "'they'."

Selah.
 
Your deer question is simply answered by the fact that yes, the word 'deer' may broaden to include moose, caribou, etcetera but the word 'deer' doesn't exist on its own.
Just to be clear -- my understanding is that deer used to be more inclusive before it came to be used for the animals we know today as deer. Provided we have names for the other animals that used to be deer, we can have a gain in meaning.

A personal anecdote might help. When I moved to North Dakota I knew the Big Dipper and that was about it. But the sky was darker here and I began to learn constellations. (To give you an idea of how impoverished my recognition of constellations had been, I cane date the first time I identified so basic a constellation as Orion. This was in late October 1990.) Now here's the thing: once I learned some constellations and stars, I not only noticed the patterns more but also the colors of individual stars. I could see the redness of Betelgeuse and Antares. Formerly I think I thought of stars as basically just points of white light.

So the point is that when I had names for these individual patterns or specific stars, my perception changed. When I had words for these things (patterns, points) I saw them, in a way for the first time. This impressed on me something of the value of protecting words with particular meanings. If I grasp the traditional meaning (seen in innumerable poems) of gay, I may have an enhanced awareness of a particular state of bright, carefree wellbeing. If I feel that exact emotional state, I can put a word to it and thereby understand my own feelings better. But, conversely, if that particular meaning is eclipsed in usage, I may lose the capacity to perceive something about my own feelings.

Look, here's another example. Some of you are old enough to remember when a German word began to appear in English writing: schadenfreude. Some of us first then realized that we indulged this rather ignoble emotion, and, so, learned something about ourselves. If this word disappeared from our vocabulary, what word would we have to express just that emotion that we may have felt but not recognized?

Or the Japanese mono no aware has made an entrance into usage by English speakers who do not know Japanese. It captures something we may have inchoately felt but not really recognized, a sort of sweet yet sad pathos as we consider the transience of things such as tree blossoms. My experience of life is enhanced. I don't know of any English word or expression that would serve as a succinct substitute. So now if people start using the Japanese expression to mean just "sadness," people would stand to lose some of the potential meaning that, I would say, is there, not "projected onto" nature but belonging to it. The Greek myth of Persephone, by the way, means more to me now that I "get" mono no aware. The myth is not just an expression of seasonal changes, but a story (I would suggest) about something for which the Greeks didn't have a word or phrase (so far as I know) -- but the Japanese did.

Good poetry protects, preserves, transmits to readers who receive it, a pure or purified language. To be sure a poet may invent words or see the potential of existing words for conveying inner states that he or she has had and that now maybe can be shared with others. I might not be able to be a poet but perhaps I can have something of a proper reverence (not idolatry) for language.

Owen Barfield's Poetic Diction has lit up things like these for quite a few readers.
 
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I have a copy of the 'Comes with a Magnifying Glass' OED from the 1970s - it's a printing of the 1933 OED - and you're right, it says nothing about the current common use of "gay". But then it was a book written by academics who probably spent more time reading Pope and Thackery than hanging around noting what kind of language prole oiks like me were using. No Henry Higginses they.
Barfield's History in English Words depends on the OED, I believe. An interesting book, but one has to resolve not to be bothered by the use in this book from the 1920s for "Aryan" where we say "Indo-European." It's too bad that the Nazi use of "Aryan" is so notorious for their pestilent racism that the word is more or less unusable. It was useful before their squalid time.
 
Because - and I suspect this is where this kind of conversation always ends up - language changes. It adapts to meet the needs of the people who use it. Jargon words and slang escape their ghettos and become mainstream. Once common terms have vanished over time. People make jokes and play with meanings. Words aquire offensive connetations, and lose them too, New things, physical and abstract, are invented and adopted requiring new words and usages. Some words are imported from other languages (some attached to the wrong things). People are sloppy. Language is sloppy. Fun isn't it?
Yes, but!
 
"The morning after the night before". I've just heard this applied to today, being the morning after last night's election debate. But what was that election debate the "night before" of? NOTHING! So stop using it.

I think it might have had an actual application, but if so, it has probably been used that way less than 1% of the time.
 

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