Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Word relativity

While in college, I once gathered entries from Dictionary of Changes in Meaning by Adrian Room, a book that gives obsolete definitions of common English words and traces their evolution to their current meanings. Here are a few of the examples I collected:

algebra: bone-setting
buxom: obedient
coffin: basket
computer: person who does computations
corpse: a living person's body
friend: lover
garbage: animal food
girl: child of either sex
grammar: the study of Latin
hussy: housewife
jargon: twittering of birds
jest: noble deed
kill: to strike or beat
knight: boy, youth
lair: bed
larva: ghost
lewd: not a member of the clergy
litter: portable couch
nice: foolish
nosy: having a large nose
passenger: traveler on foot
poison: any liquid mixture, not necessarily toxic
sagacious: having a keen sense of smell
silly: blessed
snob: shoemaker
toilet: cloth wrapping
tomboy: boisterous boy

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