Sunday, December 8, 2019

Vocabulary fatigue

We are living in a time of interest in discovery, invention and entrepreneurship.  We are also living in a time of availability of knowledge. You have probably searched for something using the Google search engine.  

The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center's first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. - June, 2019

Ideas, images, sounds and videos fly around the world at high speeds all the time, 24 hours a day.  If you don't like Google, you can use Duckduckgo or Bing. Here is an article on 14 search "engines" you can use as alternatives to Google.

All this searching and communicating and thinking puts a bit of a strain on our vocabulary.  We need additional names for additional things, ideas, notions, plans, philosophies, theories all the time.  In July, 2012, I wrote about word problems -

I mean vocabulary problems, problems of finding new words for new things.  I was last in college about 60 years ago and back then, Jacques Barzun had already complained about the new use of the word "plastic".  The word can mean "flexible, changeable" but modern plastics are rigid and hold their shape. Barzun complained that a word shouldn't mean both "flexible" and "not flexible".  I heard a speaker this morning use the word "sanction". That word appears in the news these days and often means "disapproved", often to the extent that some penalty is attached.  However, we also have sentences such as "the FDA has now sanctioned the treatment", meaning that the FDA has approved it. So, we have a fancy word running around meaning both approved and disapproved.  

As we chatter and write in 60+ languages, as new inventions and discoveries are made, and some older ones are retired or rendered obsolete, expect more vocabulary fatigue. 

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