Sunday, 23 November 2014

Words And Meanings

Because the plot of Poul Anderson's "A Tragedy of Errors" will turn on words changing their meanings, the point is made throughout the story.

Historically:

"awful" meant "awesome;"
"pompous" meant "stately;"
"artificial" meant "ingeniously conceived."

Future historically:

for some, "rogue planet" has come to mean not a sunless planet but one with an unusual composition or orbit;
they instead call sunless planets "bandit planets;"
when a scientific culture is lost, any surviving scientific knowledge is reclassified as a classical art and "Engineer" becomes the title of a feudal lord;
one group refers to "nukes," another to "tommics;"
a Nikean deduces from context that "to spot" means "to espy;"
a "cave" turns out to be a castle;
because of a tragic use of irony on a single past occasion, "friends come to do business" is now understood to mean "enemies about to attack" - the acceptable phrase has become instead "camarados come to 'change."

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