Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Example

Say some percent of the English speaking population started using the word "sky" to replace the meaning of "cloud", at what percent would you be wrong in using the word "sky" to refer to the sky.

share|improve this question
4  
This question has no definite answer when asked this way. Have you got an actual example which isn't as exaggerated as the one you're giving here? –  Irene Dec 9 '11 at 16:59
4  
1  
I think this is an interesting question, but unfortunately, as it is worded, it is much too broad and philosophical to meet the guidelines in the FAQ. –  KitFox Dec 9 '11 at 17:23
1  
    
Unfortunately I was unable to get back and give my example, which was chili. I know chili as a seed pod, everyone else I've met thinks it's a stew of some kind. Sorry about the ambiguity of my question. Thanks for all the comments/answer anyways. –  John Dec 9 '11 at 18:02
show 1 more comment

closed as not constructive by aedia λ, Matt Эллен, KitFox, jwpat7, onomatomaniak Dec 9 '11 at 17:24

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree with Irene in saying this question can be given no definite answer, as it seems (by the way its phrased) to ignore factors such as the context, location, period and culture (etc.) in which the word is used, which would (over time) contribute to the accepted understanding of the word.

Furthermore, words don't become "wrong" or "right" overnight, or when they reach a certain "acceptance percentage" with the population. Words generally fade/evolve with time and adopt totally new meanings or simply fall away. Once again, it is also important to note that they don't fall away or change globally, but normally in a small community that may or may not spread that words new meaning to other places. And even when the overwhelming majority may understand a word by a new meaning, it may still be considered "correct" to understand the word by its old meaning.

One (admittedly poor) example of this is use of the word "Incredible" which is normally taken to be akin to "amazing" or "awesome", but is also taken (a bit more archaically) to mean "not believable". Both meanings are correct, even though one (or both) may fall away in the future.

The question may be more viable with more information, but as it stands, I agree with Irene's comment.

share|improve this answer
    
I can give a good, close example. Take the word Irregardless. (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless) –  RLH Dec 9 '11 at 17:24
    
@RHL Ye gods! Say it ain't so! –  Matt Эллен Dec 9 '11 at 17:29
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.