Dual meanings - it's a peculiar phenomenon that makes
the English language one of the most difficult languages to learn.
Youngsters are often the first to adopt words and
give them dual meanings. Here are a few words that can have dual
Wicked means bad or evil but it also means extremely
cool or excellent.
Sick can mean distasteful but it can also mean
that something is cool.
Sound usually refers to an audible noise but it
can also mean safe or reliable.
By dual meanings we take a word that has its conventional
use - a word like wicked means evil or very bad, a word that would often
be associated with a act of cruelty.
However wicked can, bizarrely, also mean excellent or
extremely cool. How can that be true with two so diametrically opposed
Modern language is peppered with catchphrases, buzzwords
and euphemisms that mesh seamlessly into everyday life. To people in the
know, these words can convey the appropriate meaning in conversation.
When it becomes difficult to tell the difference, it's
usually the result of a generation gap. For kids who grow up at the cutting
edge of modern language it's easy, but for the rest of us it depends on
our ability to understand the new meaning in the context it has been given.
Working with today's youth
has seen the increased use of words with dual meanings...
Rupert McKenzie, from Gloucester, is a youth worker and
he's confronted by this modern language on a daily basis. Working with
youngsters has enabled him to gain a greater understanding of exactly
how these modern buzzwords work. He says:
Being a youth worker I'm exposed over the years to new speech that's coming
off the street from the youngsters. This they get from the media, the
music and basically you create words.
However, Rupert remembers that things were surprisingly
similar when he was a youngster. He explains:
When I was a youngster my gang had buzz words that only we knew.
One new word has really bemused Rupert is the word 'sick'.
The conventional use of the word generally refers to someone that is ill
or an act of depravity. Yet youngsters today use the word with wholly
different connotations, Rupert explains:
you. If it's really cool, it's sick."
The latest [word] I've got is from when I was doing some artwork with
some kids. They did one piece and it was really cool - they were saying
'that's sick'! That's the latest expression, I'm telling you. If it's
really cool, it's sick.
The pace of change in the use of buzzwords has amazed
Rupert, he now sees them changing far more rapidly than he would have
imagined possibly. He revealed:
The words are changing yearly. When I'm talking to the youngsters I have
to ask them 'do you actually mean this [word] to mean this or do you mean
it to mean the opposite?'.
If you're not in the know about this dual meanings then
it can clearly be quite confusing!
Man, you're wicked!
finds some words that have dual meanings to be very confusing, given
their original meaning!
Mahmood Patel, long time resident of Gloucester, continues
the conversation. He, too, is confused by the way some words have dual
As Rupert was describing in terms of creation of words and where words
cause conflict is like the word 'wicked'. To any faith-based person that
you walked up to and said 'man, you're wicked!', that goes against the
whole belief system that they've been striving to be.
The word 'safe'... what is a safe? You know, it's a large
steel box that you put your valuables in.
'Sound' is another word but sound is invisible. So what
Listen to Rupert and Mahmood as they discuss
the use of buzzwords with dual meanings in today's society...
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