Talking to elderly people is an interesting experience in terms of linguistics. I really mean it. 🙂 Sometimes they use our everyday words in such a different context that it just surprises us. The time difference and the effect of media change the meaning of some words for good. Fır example when we say “gay” nowadays, the first thing that come to our mind is sexual orientation. We can only see the original meaning of this word in Fitzgerald’s stories now. 🙂
I’m sure every language has witnessed such a change. If you have such words in your language, please feel free to comment. 🙂 It will be precious compilation.
I’ve found a very interesting article highlighting this issue. You can reach the full by clicking the link at the bottom of the page. Here, I just quote the parts that I think you’ll find interesting as well.
Many words we use today have a different meaning from 20, never mind 50, 100 or 200 years ago. Nice once meant silly (silly meant happy or blessed), then subtle, then pleasant.
In the 1950s and 60s, words that angered people who write to newspapers included job (the writer thought it vulgar, and preferred employment), breakdown (“horrible jargon”), and layby (“a combination of verb and preposition of rather obscure meaning”). The Manchester Guardian stylebook of 1950 banned such “slang” phrases as bank on, face up to, give away, sack (for “dismiss”) and many others.
Spam, in the sense of unwanted emails, was named after the 1970 Monty Python cafe sketch in which Spam, in the sense of unwanted canned meat, was compulsory in every dish.
You can read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2013/oct/07/mind-your-language-words
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