Words whose alternate usage has faded with history

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An obvious example is gay. It used to have one meaning of happy or frivolous. Nobody uses gay to mean that any more.

Take is another more obscure example. There was a famous song "Take a Letter Maria" from the 60s. Maria was his secretary. Take in that song meant type up a letter, put it in an envelope and mail it. I think nowadays for the most part secretaries don't exist. There are office assistants. Managers type their own letters, usually via email, so no one uses the word like that anymore.
 
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Stora

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Spunky

adjective
informal
adjective: spunky; comparative adjective: spunkier; superlative adjective: spunkiest
  1. 1.
    courageous and determined.
    "a spunky performance"
 
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Another two words a song reminded me of. Deaf pronounced deef in the '50s, and dumb. Mute would be the acceptable word nowadays I'd think.


I got a man who is deaf and dumb.
I got a man who is deaf and dumb.
He couldn't say a word till I made him
(backup singers) Walk right in, walk right out
First of all, that would be considered very offensive by today's standards.
Second, that doesn't rhyme.
 

Ashiri

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Dank is one word which has been used differently by younger people recently.
 

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Come.


But why I came here was not that, it was bonfire, whose origin is bone fire -- a fire made using bones.
 

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While the usage of take in the way Essence mentioned has lessened, it is still pretty common (take notes, take a nap, etc..).
 
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Lewis Luminos

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Very late to this but here's one I found out about recently.

Ever been annoyed by some southern redneck saying "I'll learn ya.." when he really means "I'll teach ya..."?

Well, he's actually right, albeit very out of date. In Old English, around the 11th century or so, the verb "laeran" covered both learning and teaching. Whereas the verb "tæcan", to teach, was used mainly in the context of "to declare" or "to announce". It was only a couple of hundred years later, in the 13th and 14th century, that "taecan" started to substitute for "laeran" for teaching something, while "laeran" remained for learning.
 

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Very late to this but here's one I found out about recently.

Ever been annoyed by some southern redneck saying "I'll learn ya.." when he really means "I'll teach ya..."?

Well, he's actually right, albeit very out of date. In Old English, around the 11th century or so, the verb "laeran" covered both learning and teaching. Whereas the verb "tæcan", to teach, was used mainly in the context of "to declare" or "to announce". It was only a couple of hundred years later, in the 13th and 14th century, that "taecan" started to substitute for "laeran" for teaching something, while "laeran" remained for learning.
Not just southern USA either. There's plenty of northern British dialects where "to learn" is always transitive... "learn him" as "teach him" and "learn yourself" as the equivalent of the "regular" usage of "learn"
 

Romana

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Dank is one word which has been used differently by younger people recently.
I'm still trying to parse that one. Did it get to mean something good because a kind of cannabis was called dank?
 

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doom (originally judgement or "area of authority") relics of the old meaning are conserved in the suffix -dom, like in kingdom (area of a king's kingship) richdom (riches someone has comand over) and so on.

But doomsday slowly gave it a new gloomy meaning. Doomsday is not about impending doom(new meaning), it is about god spelling the doom(old meaning) of each single human.
 
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Ashiri

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I'm still trying to parse that one. Did it get to mean something good because a kind of cannabis was called dank?
I think that's why. And drug slang used to be a lot more region specific.
 

Adeon Writer

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I think that's why. And drug slang used to be a lot more region specific.
Dank these days just means high quality, but it is almost always used sarcastically for something that’s is obviously not high quality, but you like it anyway and it’s a positive term.

You only call things dank when they are in fact; not dank.
 
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Kara Spengler

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One whose old meaning I refuse to let die is hacker. It used to be pretty much analogous to white hats (or cyber security if you want to sound professional) but now most people think it only has darker implications.
 

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Dank these days just means high quality, but it is almost always used sarcastically for something that’s is obviously not high quality, but you like it anyway and it’s a positive term.

You only call things dank when they are in fact; not dank.
I'll still call places dank if they are cold and damp.
 

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Decimation. In modern usage, decimation is the complete, or near complete destruction of whatever is being decimated. Historically, it was an extreme punishment used by the Roman Army; if a legion was behaving especially badly, one of every ten soldiers would be executed as an example to the rest.

Apocalypse. In the original Greek, an apocalypse is a revelation of previously unknown information, especially in the form of a vision from the gods. The most well known apocalypse to the English speaking world is the Book of Revelation, which in common culture is seen as a prophecy about the end of the world. Hence the modern usage of the word.
 

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One whose old meaning I refuse to let die is hacker. It used to be pretty much analogous to white hats (or cyber security if you want to sound professional) but now most people think it only has darker implications.
I was a hacker before Hollywood took over the term, and it had two (and a half) meanings in computers neither of which had anything to do with "white hats" or "black hats". It was either halfway positive or halfway negative depending on what part of the culture you came in by.

* Someone who was so enthusiastic about computers that programming was entertainment. Often produced sweet hacks. (one)
* Someone who had no formal training in programming and often produced very odd code. Often produced crufty hacks. (two)
* Someone who used to be in the MIT model railroad club. Even crufty hacks can be sweet. (and a half)
 
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Kara Spengler

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I was a hacker before Hollywood took over the term, and it had two (and a half) meanings in computers neither of which had anything to do with "white hats" or "black hats". It was either halfway positive or halfway negative depending on what part of the culture you came in by.

* Someone who was so enthusiastic about computers that programming was entertainment. Often produced sweet hacks. (one)
* Someone who had no formal training in programming and often produced very odd code. Often produced crufty hacks. (two)
* Someone who used to be in the MIT model railroad club. Even crufty hacks can be sweet. (and a half)
Yeah, I only use "white hats" and "black hats" as meeting people halfway. Technically I never met the definition of a hacker back in the day as part of it was someone else recognized you as a hacker .... pretty hard to do in NH and in the days before the WWW (and my having access to the internet). Although already having 2 computers (an apple ][ and a dumb terminal) before HS certainly met the enthusiasm requirement! I did eventually get formal training (starting with a summer day camp in grade school) but my own studying was much better, it led to my realizing I could wow my HS pascal teacher by reading a chapter ahead of him and wound up doing my college C final in 30 minutes then not checking it because I knew everything was right. No, not in the TMRC, but they (and Woz) were my heroes ... I did meet someone I suspect knew them when I was at worldcon in Boston and to say he was a bit different would be an understatement.
 
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