Tag Archives: language

“Decadent” and “Downfall”

“Verbal Ticks” Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/verbal-ticks/

“Decadent”
While I grant that common usage can change words’ meanings, I object to using a word that means “in a state of decay” to signify richness of flavor. It seems that people at some point associated rich food with the extravagant, wasteful spending that ruined some empires. Perhaps people read about the decadence of the Roman Empire, for example, and associated “luxurious food” with the luxuries owned by the wealthy.

Examples of misuse: 1.This chocolate is rich and decadent.
2.
Oh, how I enjoy decadent sweets!

Downfall”
Many people seem to think that “downfall”—a term best reserved for the literal or figurative destruction of powerful nations and people—has replaced all the words meaning “trivial flaw,” “slight misfortune,” and “minor weakness”.
Examples of misuse:1.He is a nice person, but he is sometimes late . Tardiness is his only downfall.
2. Although he is lactose intolerant, he could not resist drinking milk. One day he drank some and had an upset stomach. His love of dairy products was his downfall.

[Ambition led to the downfall of Julius Caesar. To be assassinated at the peak of one’s powers is to experience a downfall. The milk-drinking protagonist of “Example 2”, on the other hand, will most likely enjoy a long, healthy life after recovering from his minor bout of gastrointestinal discomfort]

 

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“Egalitarian” [Devil’s Derivations/Etymologies from Hell #5] by Dr. Burgess

“Egalitarian”
“Egalitarian” was originally a term of ridicule employed by a capitalist who accused his socialist opponent of “consuming the eagles soaring above the herd.” This word, meaning originally “those who eat eagles,” was coined by analogy with “vegetarian,”* meaning “those who eat primarily vegetables and avoid eating animals.” Undergoing a type of transformation common in the history of languages, “egalitarian” became a word with positive connotations thanks to social changes and its fortuitous similarity to “equalitarian”.

*Some might suggest that “aquilavore”—“Aquila” + “vor[are]e,” modeled on “carnivore” and “omnivore”—would have been a more appropriate term than “egalitarian.” “Vegetarian,” the word on which “egalitarian” is based, raises an interesting question: “If vegetarians eat primarily vegetables, why don’t humanitarians eat humans?”

Devil’s Derivations (or Etymologies from Hell) [Day 2]

“Foreign”
Two words still in use combined to form this originally xenophobic term. Like the Ancient Greeks, who considered all non-Greeks “barbarians,” the Early Modern Brits thought of all outsiders as enemies and referred to other kingdoms as places where the “foe reigns”. [Pronunciation of the first syllable has changed gradually from “foe” to “for”].

The earliest recorded use of the term appears in Gilliam Tremblestaff’s tragedy Spamlet:
“As long as Philip wears the crown in Spain,
That land I’ll loathe and always call ‘foe-reign'”.