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» Changing meanings

Books & Commentary & Media 19 Feb 2007 09:55 am

Changing meanings

I’m often amused at how words change meanings over time. Take, for example, the word “ejaculation,” which at one time meant a sudden verbal outburst.

Edgar Allan Poe uses the word in that sense at a pivotal moment in the classic “Cask of Amontillado,” which never fails to elicit a giggle or two (if not outright rolling in the aisles) when we read it aloud in ninth-grade English class.

It’s the one time when I wish the textbook publishers had amended a classic.

Then there is an example from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts,” dated April 21, 1952. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I don’t have a scanner, so you’ll have to muddle along with my explanation.

Charlie Brown and Patty are walking through the rain. Patty looks down at her feet and the dialogue goes as follows:

Patty: My rubbers are wearing out…

Charlie: You should be like me…a pair of rubbers lasts me twice as long as it would the average person…I forget to wear them half the time!

Ah, Charlie, we hardly knew ye.

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One Response to “Changing meanings”

  1. on 10 Feb 2010 at 1.Cassandra Dalton said …

    But us seniors can go through The Color Purple without much of a problem.

    It was Lady MacBeth’s asthma we had a problem with.

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