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grufty jim
grufty jim
1978 posts

Re: schizophrenic
Nov 05, 2002, 12:53
> but to follow your course of thinking, that means
> *any* word can mean *anything*...
No it doesn't. I've no idea how you got that out of what i wrote - cos that's precisely the opposite of what i was saying. Words do *mean* something aside from their dictionary definitions. These "new" or "supplementary" meanings are bestowed by socio-cultural factors mostly. And they are common across a culture.

The vast majority of people (i believe - and i accept this is just a belief... i haven't got a MORI poll to back me up or anything) when they hear the word "schizophrenic" think of the usage i put it to. "Schizophrenia", the noun, almost certainly has the image of 'mental illness' attached to it for almost all people, but the adjective has - i believe - changed meaning.

This doesn't mean that *any* word can mean *anything*. It means te opposite of that - it means that words have universally (or near as damnit) understood meanings which change over time. Those meanings aren't arbitrary - and they aren't random. They may often be specific to a certain locale, but that's the nature of the evolution of language.

When i was in Texas, the word "ride" was used by people to mean "admonish" or "verbally antagonise". The first time i heard this was from a barman who'd been having trouble of some kind with one of the waitresses in the bar. He sighed despairingly to me "Jeez, she's been riding me all night".

In Ireland that phrase would have an altogether different meaning. And neither meaning is the one you'll find in the dictionary. That doesn't mean that i can just decide today that "ride" means "to hunt caribou with obsidian arrows". The word means something very specific in those locations.
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