‘Sim’ was a word that mother knew and used often. I only followed her instruction when she would say from the verandah (while talking to our neighbour) – keep the milk for heating…not HIGH, just SIM. Today, I don’t hear anyone say this. The only SIM that people of today know is the Mobile SIM. Today the word HIGH means one who is HIGH on drugs.
A ‘metro’ was always a metropolitan city, made popular by Doordarshan’s news readers (The temperatures in the four metros are…). Now when we hear someone say Metro, we need to know if it is the Metro cash and carry or Namma Metro, or one of the four metros!
‘Flex’ is another word that you hear so much. Earlier, those who would exercise would flex their muscles. Today, flex more often than not means the material for printing anything and everything – from the traffic rules (with pictures of 3 ants or Sri Veerendra Hegde or Rahul Dravid), to announcing the birthday of Karave Narayana Gowdaru or informing us near Devegowda petrol bunk that the current CM is not Yeddy or his buddy, but it is Jaggi on whom the rivals are waiting to close the shutter…to letting us know that fruit seller Mariyanna or little Selvaganesh or groundnut seller Kempamma are no more.
Every word has a variety of connotations which can be added to, removed or altered over time. Sometimes this occurs to the extent that words from one point in time have very different meanings in relation to another time. A good example of a recent semantic change is of the word mouse; with the advent of computer technology, the word for the animal has been used to refer to the device.
Nowadays, when you say even the most common or innocuous word or phrase, it would have some new definition that was apparently written yesterday because you never heard it before. One example that comes to mind is the word “sick” which apparently now is being used to indicate something “cool” or “exciting” or “awesome.” This usage almost literally makes me sick. Sick means sick, and this “new” definition is just beyond ridiculous.
Apple was just a fruit till a few years ago. Now when a kid asks “do you have an apple at home?” you have to think which apple is this little know-all devil asking and then say the answer. Then, an apple a day kept the doctors away. Now an apple a day keeps the Mac guys happy.
Inside school, Galaxy was a system of millions or billions of stars, together with gas and dust, held together by gravitational attraction – the one which the solar system is a part; the Milky Way. Outside school, it meant the posh theatre on Residency road. Today, Galaxy is neither of the two. It primarily means a mobile.
Ditto with Blackberry. The fruit has been overshadowed by its mobile namesake!
WORD meant a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing. Today it means MS Word (which is a proprietary word processor), a file format. EXCEL, which earlier meant to shine, is today a commercial spreadsheet application, and a file format.
Stumble was when someone walked unsteadily or a misstep. Now it means the personal recommendation engine StumbleUpon.
In mathematics, FB series (Fourier–Bessel series) is a particular kind of generalized Fourier series (an infinite series expansion on a finite interval) based on Bessel functions. Need I say what FB means today?
Ever since I can remember, the word ‘Majestic’ for me means Cinema halls, Central Bus stand and Bangalore Railway Station! I need to be told it also means royal and regal!
‘Bandwidth’ was a data transmission rate; the maximum amount of information that can be transmitted along a channel. Now it is the capacity of a person to handle tasks or issues, either actual or emotional.
‘Go green’ was earlier meant to convey envy. Today anyone going green is good for the environment, as it means environmentally friendly. As the need for recycling has developed, ‘green’ has become not only a word to describe colour, but to describe a person who is doing their bit for the environment.
Writers in the previous century used the word ‘gay’ in a carefree way to express happiness (as in gay abandon). Now they have abandoned the usage. The meaning of ‘gay’ has changed over the years from happy to homosexual.
Most of us use the word ‘Google’, the internet search technology company and platform, instead of ‘Search’ – to search the internet for information.
Outlook meant viewpoint. Today, it more often than not means either the software product from Microsoft or the weekly english newsmagazine.
Space only meant the outer space. Today, even the Ajji at the temple knows how much space her Galaxy has for storing pictures and music!
The word ‘At’ was used as a function word to indicate presence or occurrence in, on, or near. Now most of us write the symbol @ instead of the whole word. Any e-mail address is incomplete / incorrect without the symbol.
Stream meant a body of water with a current that’s confined within a bed. And now, it is used to mean a constantly flowing body of updates, photos, images, and other content on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Some of the text msgs hv riDQlous sentences with lotsa acronyms. LOL! Some acronyms hv multiple mngs for specific trgt audience. POS is a commonly used acronym. If you are a teenager, it can mean Parents Over Shoulder. For a sales person, it means Point of Sale. For a person into linguistics, it is Part of Speech. For the guy interested in visiting the Carribbean, it is Port of Spain.
A3 is a page size for the designers and printers. For teenagers, it means Anywhere, Any time, Any place.
We knew that PTO meant Page Turn Over or Please Turn Over. It also fitted perfectly into Kannada – Puta thirugisi odhi! Now, those who chat, use it to mean Pass This On!
I feel World Taekwondo Federation, Wikileaks Task Force, Western Task Force, Williamstown Theatre Festival and even the World Trade Fair face a common problem – they must be feeling embarassed to use the abbreviated form (WTF). Even if they use the abbrv. form, the person reading might read it by default as What the….!
ATM for some of us means Automated Teller Machine (only a place where we can get cash). For the SMS generation, it also means At the moment.
VAT today is Value Added Tax. Earlier it meant a bottle of Vat 69 whisky.
For us, Hand means hand. For teens, it is Have a nice day! I knew SMH as Kirmani’s initials. But I got to know it also means Shaking my head! (what you are doing now!)
Coming back to the words,’ Cool’ once only meant something somewhat cold. Now, anyone who doesn’t crib or scold, and agrees to any nonsense happening around him/her, is cool! Or when a teenager understands something as basic a sentence as: Today is Sunday, his/her reaction can be ‘Cool!’ I feel they say it when the situation is in their favour.
At the same time, ‘Hot’ once only meant something somewhat hot. Today you use the word to describe the ladies who dance for the item songs in all woods (holly, bolly, kolly, tolly, molly, sandal…) (someone who is physically attractive). It shows that language is changing because the views on sexuality and expression is becoming more open and as opposed to years ago it is not as sinful to talk about and express.
Cell can mean either a biological unit of living organism, or the ‘box’ where a column and a row intersect, in a spreadsheet, or a prison or a cellphone.
‘Link’ always meant a relationship between two things or situations, esp. where one thing affects the other. Today, a link is more often than not an address to a particular website.
Spam in the olden days meant food. Now it means junk email.
‘Plus One’ was what I studied after 10th standard. Now, it is used to mean a new initiative that allows anyone searching Google to publicly endorse web results they like. It’s a kind of digital shorthand for a thumbs-up.
We don’t bother about a person’s ‘memory’. We only want to know the computer’s ‘memory’, made up of chips that temporarily hold data or instructions in a computer.
Mouse was always a famous and important cartoon character in either Tom & Jerry or Mickey & Donald series. Now, we can’t think anything else other than the small input device we work with to operate our computer.
Surf was only a washing powder, which the sensible, value-conscious housewife ‘Lalitaji’ asked us to buy. Today, Surf in the Internet parlance means ‘surf’ or browse the Internet.
A ‘bridge’ was built normally over a water-body to enable traffic across, or it was a game. Interestingly in network terminology, a bridge is a device which connects multiple network segments at the innermost data layers. And for the graphic designers, bridge usually means Adobe Bridge.
Yahoo was what Shammi Kapoor shouted in the song. For the current generation (don’t know if it is the X, Y or Z gen that is running now), Yahoo is a famous web portal.
A’ tag’ that normally labels instructions or the price of items has also entered the tech-world. It is now used by web-developers to create itemised contents for the web-pages with relevant key-words that help search engines like Google or Bing to bring out the relevant pages when these key-words are searched for.
Server was usually in volleyball / tennis,or in the hotels. Now it is related to technology. Post was part of a fence or what the postman delivered. Today, post needs no explanation.
Thread used to be a piece of string. Again no explanation needed for the current use. Text was simply letters typed out. Now it means a text message.
Biological virus cause illness to living beings, while rogue software ‘virus’ infect and take down even powerful computers that are not adequately protected. Similarly a ‘bug’ is an insect in the real world while it means an error in software programming parlance or a technical flaw in a hardware solution.
Last but not the least, the first 3 letters of my name, RAM, doubles up as ‘Random Access Memory’ in the digital realms. When someone asks me : How much ram is required for windows 7 64 bit? I say: Till I am there, one will do!
As time moves on we come across new terms and old words with new meanings and learn to adapt to their new meaning by repeated use. It only takes a good weather day to sit back relaxed and think retrospectively as to how these common words once meant something so simple in our lives, have been very much complicated by technology. Until we meet again, boot your windows, run your mouse and keep surfing the web.
Now it’s your turn. What others might you add? Feel free to mention your list in the comments section!