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War of the Words

Did you know that the active definition of the word "literally" is "figuratively"?

Here is the active listing for "Literally" according to Merriam-Webster:
1:  in a literal sense or manner :  actually <took the remarkliterally> <was literally insane>
:  in effect :  virtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins>

I am quite positive that sitting on some bookshelf in someone's home is a dictionary printed several decades ago. In that dictionary is a listing for the word literally which contains only one definition, and that being the literal one. 
On a parallel vein, we see words imported from other languages such as "bitch" or "fuck" which have a literal definition in their native tongue, but when used in America, have taken on much stronger and much more crass interpretations. I am quite sure that the first American to incorporate the use of "bitch" in their conversation was talking about a French breed of dog and was specifying between the male and female versions of the breed. In many dog training and dog breeding groups this word is still incorporated and encouraged in its purest form.
Similarly, we see a constant addition of words to the English vocabulary. For instance the word "ginormous" was recently recognized as an official word and was added to the dictionary. Our language is constantly evolving and changing based on the principal of semiotics.
:a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics
Basically, what you say will be interpreted by the listener through both the lens of culture, context, and personal perception. Each of us does this with any word or turn of phrase daily. 
Consider for instance, if I use the phrase "Life threw me a curve this morning", each of you will understand that a bit differently. From a cultural point of view you will probably recognize the phrase as meaning that something was difficult and unexpected in my morning. Within the context of our conversation you will understand if that is a bad thing or a good thing or just a surprise sort of thing. Your personal perception might hear this sentence from a baseball point of view and you might immediately jump to thinking about how a curve is shorthand for curveball and how a curve is yes, difficult to hit, but no more than a slider and how a good changeup is actually the most difficult pitch to hit and.............
.....and now the intended meaning of my sentence is partially lost due to interpretation. 
We all interpret things that we read and hear from day to day and we either perceive the intended meaning or we don't. If we don't, there are times that we probe for further clarification, and there are times that we start an argument because we misunderstand. 
For instance, the word "gay." Not but two generations ago this word meant "happy" and solely that. There is a lady in my congregation named Gay, and I am quite sure her parents named her that for her liveliness and not her taste in sexuality. Then, a generation passed and started using the word to mean "homosexual" and that was adopted as an alternate definition. Not because the word itself changed, but because our culture altered its meaning to a point that the dictionary editors felt the need to incorporate this new use. 
Enter our current generation. The term "gay" has been a hot-button for several years now and I am pleased to report that it has been largely in terms of equal rights and encouragement, instead of hatred and bigotry. Even the church has started embracing the word "gay" and not turning away people with this label (way to go church!). News stories have spread with multiple accounts of monogamous relationships and same-sex attraction individuals who use the term gay in order to show the public that someone claiming to be gay is not inherently a bad or evil or even odd thing at all. 
This generation is changing the definition of gay. Changing it from meaning queer or odd or unclean, to same-sex attraction, sophisticated, or even the new normal.
How do words change their meaning? By using them in specific contexts multiple times. We are currently changing the meaning of "gay" in a positive way and I hope that this swing continues. 
Words will come and words will go and their definitions will change as we allow them to. 
I, for one, hope and pray that the definition of "Christian" will be altered in people's minds when they get to know me. Instead of people hearing "Christian" and thinking of Westboro Baptist Church, or bigoted, or Pharisee, or "holier than thou", or "hoity toity", I want people to hear that I am a Christian and think of humility, faith, charitable, honest, and loving. 
I want to be someone who alters words towards better meanings and leaves the world as a better place because of the words I say and the things I do. 


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