I’m sure Shakespeare was not trying to start the English Renaissance version of an urban dictionary. And he was correct that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But it would be good for us all to remember that had a rose been called by another name, we wouldn’t realize he’d been writing about a rose.
Something that really irks me is the need, especially in recent times, of people to make up words. In some instances I suppose it’s an attempt to be less abrasive. The use of the word fluffy instead of fat is an example. But let’s face it. If you’re fat, you’re fat. Fluffy is a word that should be reserved for puppies, kittens, ducklings, and pillows. Unless I suddenly grow a lush covering of soft fur, I’m not fluffy, I’m fat.
When I hear or read the (not really a) word “hangry” it makes me want to climb a clock tower with a rifle. Hungry is a physical state. Angry is an emotional one. You can be both hungry and angry but that doesn’t create a new state of being and shouldn’t cause people to make up a word.
It’s absolutely, to me, horrifying that the Urban Dictionary even exists. We should not be honoring words and phrases that are nothing but a jumble of other words and phrases. The English language is, in its pure form, elegant and beautiful. There is nothing that we cannot express using English. Why then do some people want to pretend that a word with an established definition suddenly means something entirely different?
One way that people pretend they’ve invented new and useful words is to slightly change the spelling of a word then assign it a meaning that is the antonym of the actual definition. I was aghast to hear someone call a young lady fat a few years ago. The explanation that they had used the “word” phat and that it was supposed to mean attractive did nothing to diminish the actual definition of fat.
Yes, I know languages change over time. We no longer speak the same English as Shakespeare and his contemporaries. And my generation had its own slang that we believed somehow set us apart from our parents’ generation. Gosh, was anything ever as groovy as the 60’s?
But we also outgrew the need for phrases like far out just as our parents and grandparents stopped saying things were the bee’s knees or the cat’s pajamas. We became adults and adults were expected to be capable of both speaking and writing in Standard English. Telling your boss not to have a cow would not have led to rapid advancement.
Now, of course, we have high school and even college graduates who believe that spelling is an inconvenience and think grammar is irrelevant. After all, they say, does it really matter if they write your instead of you’re or there instead of their?
Yes! It matters!