My English teachers strenuously denied it, but languages are not immutable. Centuries ago, Daniel Webster regularized the American spelling of various words ("center", "draft", etc). More recently, the public literally flipped the meaning of the word "literally" through chronic misuse.

Have there been successful, intentional campaigns to change the spelling and/or meaning of words within living memory? How or why did they succeed?

Changes that happened passively because people could care less [sic] about proper usage don't count.

  • 2
    Well, there are certain parties working on such words as "fact" and "truth".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 20, 2020 at 19:58
  • 2
    There is 'sensational spelling', in advertising, music etc. Covered here before. What do you call words that are misspelled to add effect?. For instance, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik', not by The Beatles. // If it becomes big enough in some way, it works. Till then, it loses you credibility / marks / jobs. Mar 20, 2020 at 20:04
  • 3
    The new word 'flammable' was adopted because people might think 'inflammable' described something that wouldn't burn; whereas in fact the 'in' at the start of 'inflammable' is not a negative but derives from the Latin inflammare: to set on fire. The word 'entitled' has lost one of its meanings. "My essay entitled [x]" is deprecated in favour of "titled". Mar 20, 2020 at 20:22
  • 4
    If you consider words at the heart of major social evolutions, there are lots. For example the effort (mostly successful) to make "queer" a positive description of a person rather than a pejorative one.
    – The Photon
    Mar 20, 2020 at 20:51
  • 2
    "Have there been successful, intentional campaigns to change the spelling and/or meaning of words?" Not in English, no. In languages with more reasonable orthographies, however, it happens with some frequency. Mar 20, 2020 at 21:05


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