How often I am struck by the mutability of the English language. When I was a child, to be gay was a kind of euphoria and a legend was a story about a superhuman whose existence was unprovable. Now a gay legend is a mediocre football player with a roving eye in the showers.
Let me be clear, I have no qualm about the benefit of continuing the growth and development of the English language… or any language for that matter. However, when the meanings of words are changed over time, then we compromise our ability to maintain our understanding of what has gone on before this moment, the ever present now.
If I were able to control language, then the simple rule would be that once a word comes into existence then its meaning shall be retained forever as the meaning it had at the time of its creation.
This is particularly important in the area of law, especially contract law. When a layman reads a legal document, they are quite likely to believe that they comprehend the meaning of that document, while the reality of the legal enforceability of that document will be quite different. The most important element of reading any contract is to ensure that the definition of each word is understood either by reading the definitions of terms provided explicitly in the document or where such definitions are not provided, by consultanting Black’s Law Dictionary http://thelawdictionary.org or an equivalent.
In this blog, my aim is to use words which have unambiguous meanings. Since I am doubtful that I will be perfect in this regard, I welcome the comments of readers with suggestions of word changes which improve my objective of eliminating ambiguous words. For example, my preference is only to use the word “cool” when referring to temperature.
Part of this way of thinking comes from the concepts outlined by a collective called “The Chronicle Project” with the website http://www.thechronicleproject.org . This collective has the view that the original Hebrew language is specifically encoded in a way which makes it immutable… in my world view this is a very fine attribute indeed.