Playing with language

7 Jun


Bosom, breast, hell.

Titters erupted as each of these words were uttered as we began our study of A Midsummer Night’s DreamNot everyone laughed. Some remained quiet, but eyes grew large. You could see the wheels turning behind those eyes, wondering if these were bad words.  I almost laughed as I interrupted two girls arguing over whether or not virgin was a cuss word. Really???

Words have changed meaning within my lifetime. When I was young we didn’t wear flip flops, we wore thongs, but I never use that term because it has taken on a whole new meaning.

Several years ago, I was discussing My Side of the Mountain with a lit circle. They giggled when Jean Craighead George wrote about the crotch of a tree. They only knew one meaning of the word crotch and it was another unmentionable.

I recently learned that troll no longer refers to a mythical being or a person who sows discord on the Internet. It is also an adjective for a bad thing, as in  That test was really troll. Who knew? There are fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but no trolls.  The closest thing to a troll in Shakespeare, is Caliban from The Tempest. I wonder what Will would make of these evolutions of the English language?



9 Responses to “Playing with language”

  1. elsie June 7, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    Language, ever evolving. Wonder what other changes are in store for the rest of our lives.

  2. beckymusician June 7, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    There are numerous times during read-aloud that I have to stop and explain a word before my 4th graders jump to the wrong conclusion. We were reading Johnny Tremain, which includes bosom (“It means a woman’s chest area.” Moving on.) and fagot, meaning a bundle of sticks, but oh dear…

    • Adrienne June 7, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Oh, I forgot about that one! The trick is to explain what it meant THEN, without talking about what it means today. There are usually innocents who have never heard the word used in any way.

  3. arjeha June 7, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    It is amazing how words once innocent in meaning have taken on new definitions – some not brought up in polite company. Thanks for the smile.

  4. Mary Beth Steven June 7, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    I was just shocked this year when two boys locked eyes and laughed at the word ‘dope’. We were talking about the role of the final non-syllabic ‘e’ in words, so it came up alone and randomly. I asked them if they were thinking someone was a dope, something was dope, or someone was smoking dope. They actually thought that saying ‘dope’ in school (and referring to marijuana) was somehow like swearing! Weirdest thing ever!

    • Adrienne June 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      Too funny.

  5. Brian Rozinsky June 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these moments, Adrienne. I figure language was one of the original cottage industries — each cottage somebody’s revving brain 🙂

  6. Tara Smith June 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    So interesting, isn’t it, how our language evolves…great slice!

  7. cweichel June 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

    I’m happy that students here at my school consider all kinds of words forbidden that were all too commonplace when I was young. Words like retard, stupid, and fag. Evolution can be a very fine thing!

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