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For a non-native speaker it is always hard to 'hear' if particular metaphorical language works. In an article for an academic journal I am writing about how the recurrent usage of particular mythological material has an impact on the meaning of that material. Trying to bypass overused phrases like 'impacts on,' or less precise words like 'change,' I wanted to use the phrase 'liquefy conventional meanings.' I want to convey the idea that the meanings traditionally attached to mythological symbolism might start to change gradually.

Could you please explain if 'liquefy' does the job, or whether it sounds clunky, contrived, or is in any other way not suitable.

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    It sounds overly poetic to my ears, ie the metaphor is too removed from reality. My instinct would be that it's not suitable for academia but it depends on how formal your piece is. – Max Williams Jun 8 '16 at 9:13
  • Lacks adequate metaphorical value, a better alternative may be desirable. In any case, it's more about Writing – Kris Jun 8 '16 at 9:23
  • As far as ELU is concerned, I hope English already has a term for the semantic dynamics of a word, similar to morphology. See Linguistics for more. – Kris Jun 8 '16 at 9:25
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    Liquefy does sound wrong to me, maybe you could use "fluid" in some way, depending on the context. – JonLarby Jun 8 '16 at 9:46
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Liquefy sounds pretentious and recherché to my ears; and the metaphor doesn't work anyway. Lots of plain words would work—depending on what, precisely, you want to say:

  • The recurrent usage of this material gradually changes its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material shapes its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material shifts its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material distorts its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material alters its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material makes its meaning more malleable.
  • The recurrent usage of this material softens its meaning.
  • The recurrent usage of this material blurs its meaning.
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    +1 for using the word "recherché" while critcizing the word "liquefy" as pretentious. – Doug Warren Jun 8 '16 at 16:51

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