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Disgust – how did the word change so much? Evolution of languageAccording to the Oxford English dictionary, disgust is ‘a feeling of revulsion or strong disapproval aroused by something unpleasant or offensive‘, however originally the word was only used to refer to filth or rotten food, is this a result of language evolution?

So how did we start using this word so broadly?

We often refer to food or dirt as disgusting but we now also say that certain people, situations, behaviour and attitudes are disgusting.

Disgust is just one of so many words which have evolved, others include:

  • Awful: We use this word to describe something bad or unpleasant, however it originally meant deserving or full of awe.
  • Brave: We often refer to courageous people as brave, but this word originally signified cowardice.
  • Tell: The word we now use, meaning to give an account of, originally meant to count.
  • Counterfeit: The word which once meant legitimate copy now means the complete opposite, something which is not genuine.

English is one of the most vocabulary rich languages in the world, yet it appears that we are narrowing our vocabulary by avoiding synonyms and using one word in a number of different situations. Are we becoming too lazy?

Rather than disgust why don’t we use abominate, bother, disenchant, displease, disturb, gross out, offend, nauseate, outrage, repulse, revolt, shock or upset? These are all such expressive words and it seems a shame to disregard them for the sake of using the obvious alternative!

There is also the question of how the usage of a word affects its power. Has the word disgust lost it’s impact due to overuse? Once such a strong sounding word, we now use it so often that it’s meaning has become diluted.

Love is another example of a word which has become diluted. When I say that I love a film, do I really mean it? No, what I really mean is that I like it, but like sounds bland so I use love. It’s all part of exaggerating what we say to create more impact, but this in turn is lessening the impact of the words we are using.

So with languages continuously evolving, does this make it easier or harder to produce accurate translations? Let us know you thoughts via the comment box below.

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