The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.
Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Positive quote evolved to negative|
|Question:||Hello, and thanks for reading this! In the words of THOREAU from Walden--''If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer--let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away.'' As so many of American quotes and phrases that have been gleaned from the work of Thoreau and have become a popular part of our ongoing and current vernacular, e.g. ''He marches to the tune of a different drummer''. To those reading only the quote as it evolved into our language, never reading the original--it seems it could be read as a negative rather than a positive. Is there a word or definition that is used to point out that conceptual possibility? Thanks for your consideration, Lois Graham|
|Reply:||I think the term you are looking for is "pejoration" which signifies that the meaning of a word or phrase becomes more negative over time. The opposite is "amelioration" in which a word or phrase becomes more positive over time. For the record, I have never considered the phrase "march to a different drummer" particularly negative. For me, it is close to the original sense that a person has a unique path in life.|
|Reply From:||Elizabeth J Pyatt click here to access email|