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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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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

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
Date: 10-Jan-2013

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