Word

I have a strange (to me) short-sightedness when it comes to the underlining meaning of certain words. I have no idea if this problem is common. I feel quite foolish when I realize what I’ve been “missing.” Here’s the most recent one. It only occurred to me this week that the word vacation must be derived from the word vacate, as in vacating one place for another. Right? Before I simply thought of vacation as a word unto itself.

Cavity, as in your tooth, is another such word. I hate to tell you how long I had no idea a cavity in a tooth meant a HOLE in the tooth. To my thinking, cavities were just undesirable mysterious tooth troubles, possibly caused by too much sugar. Um, not exactly.😐 I failed to think of the actual definition of the word. No one ever showed me a picture of a cavity in someone’s teeth, let alone my own, so it simply never clicked. I grasped that cavities were treated with “fillings” but I didn’t comprehend what was being filled, especially since the end result was always the whole tooth being filled not a tiny hole or tiny cavity.

My last example is also a toothy one. After orthontia, a patient wears a retainer. I had one that I wore but ultimately threw out some decades after receiving it. It never occurred to me that the device was intended to retain the shape of the corrected teeth. Once again, the connection simply didn’t happen. To me a retainer was just the name of the item. Oh geez, braces is another, of course. They “brace” the teeth, something that never crossed my mind till this moment!

I don’t know what this tendency is but I’m sure I do it with many other words too. My vocabulary isn’t too shabby but something about taking a word out of its context or applying it a different way can make it unrecognizable to me.

21 thoughts on “Word

    1. Colette Post author

      Yes, the words change and you can get stuck with the old version. On the other hand I’ve recently heard the word “Amazon” several times & immediately assumed it was the company when it was actually the geographical location being referenced. I felt kinda bad.😐

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  1. Arlene Somerton Smith

    We do start to take words for granted – the meaning gets changed over time. Like the word cupboard – a board for cups. Here in Canada we tend to use the word holiday for vacation, from holy day. So, we vacate for a holy day. 🙂

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    1. Colette Post author

      I like that.😊 Holiday is nicer-sounding than the hard-consonant vacation. Cupboard reminds me of “icebox” although I doubt too many are keeping that one alive. Maybe I should start saying it….

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  2. Paula R.C. Readman

    Words that have had their meanings changed and sometimes not for the good. Pussy Willow is a name for a shrub in English. The shrub has a fur like covering on its buds. And produces catkins. So you can understand when I tell you how shocked my niece was when I called my cat Pussy Willow. ‘But Auntie you can’t call your cat that!’
    ‘Gay’ is another word that has changed its meaning. At one time it meant happy. Now it has taken on a whole new meaning.

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    1. Colette Post author

      Sometimes it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to changes in word usage. But words like retainer, etc, have multiple concurrent meanings.

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      1. Paula R.C. Readman

        I’m not talking about me changing the words usage but how over time the word has had it meaning changed by others. Language naturally changes with time and new words are being born as we speak. Blogs, bloggers and blogging are new words to the English language 😊

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  3. Pistachios

    Like Arlene from Canada, we also tend to use “holiday” in Australia, so I hadn’t really thought about the literal meaning behind “vacation”. “Holy-day” seems more obvious though.

    My main trouble with words used to be only ever seeing certain words on paper, and not knowing how they’re pronounced. For example, I remember when I was a kid, I thought “hitherto” was pronounced closer to “hith-erto” than “hither-to” (which I learnt/figured out later on)

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    1. Colette Post author

      Holiday makes me think of trips overseas for some reason. Not that I’ve had one! I totally understand saying a word a particular way in your mind, only to find out it’s something else. “Hor dourves” was one of mine.😊

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      1. Pistachios

        Another one for me was “interminable”. When I was younger, I’d seen it in books, but never heard anyone say it. I knew the meaning but for a long time I thought it was “inter-minable”, not realising that the meaning and pronunciation are obviously linked😅

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