English Essay on “Words Change As Men Change” for School, College Students, Long and Short English Essay, Speech for Class 8, 9, 10, 12 and Competitive Exams.

Words Change As Men Change

Words are almost like living things. They are born, they grow, they change, and they die. About the birth of most of the English words we use we know little or nothing. Many are very, very old. But at some time in the dim past each of them must have been invented by someone. We can, however, trace the life-history of many; and we can see many being born to-day. As new things are discovered or invented, names to fit them have to be found; and these are either old words that adopt a new meaning, or quite new words invented for the purpose. For example, names of modern scientific inventions, such as telegraph, tele-phone, television, microscope, photograph, gramophone, cinema, bicycle, microphone, and many others, are all modern births.

And as words are born, so they eventually die, or become obsolete. We come across many words in Shakespeare’s plays, for example, which were alive in his day but now are dead. Hamlet cries, “Who would fardels bear ?” A “fardel” was a burden in the 16th Century; but now the word is unknown and unused; it is dead. So with foison (plenty), sleave (silk), clept (called), pelting (mean), pilled (pillaged), chaudron (entrails), and scores more. Other words are still alive, in the sense that we know what they mean, but they have grown old and grey-headed, and are not now used except in poetry. They are “archaic” words ; such as-trow (think), quoth (said), argosy (merchant ship), sire (father), damsel,belike, perchance, haply, albeit, anent (about), withal.

Between their birth and death; words grow, and change. First, they change in form. Who would think that the English church grew from the Greek kuriakon, meaning “the Lord’s (house)?” Or that goodbye was first “God be with you?” Secondly, they change in meaning. Words seem to have a sort of moral character; and as men degenerate or become ennobled, so do words. Take this group, for instance: boor, villain, churl. Before the Norman Conquest, these words were honourable, or at least innocent, among the Saxons. A boor was simply a farmer; a villain was a “villa-man”, a worker on a “villa”, or Roman estate; and a churl was a free, independent, land-owning peasant. But the conquering Norman lords de-based all these classes to serfdom; and their names went down with the men. In the same way, a knave was simply a “boy-servant” originally.

One of the most striking examples of the elevation of words is the word cross. In old Roman days the cross meant all the shames and disgrace that “gallows” does to us. But since Christ’s atoning death on the cross, the cross has been to the Christian world the most sacred and revered symbol. In like manner, angel meant first simply a messenger ; a martyr was merely a witness ; paradise meant merely a gar-den, but now means Heaven.

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