Have Fun with Words

I recently spent several days in London and Northern Ireland.  Even though English is the major language in both countries, many words have different meanings and some expressions, although they are words you know, have meanings that are different from in the United States.  For example, a pharmacist is a “dispensing chemist”, exit is a “way out,” and French fries are “chips.”  Trash is “rubbish,” a trunk of a car is a “boot,” an elevator is a “lift,” candy is “sweeties,” and athletic shoes are “trainers.”  And the list goes on and on. 

This experience made me think of some of the language challenges we have in our own country. For example, when I lived in Boone, North Carolina, mountain people had several different meanings for the word “poke.”   In that geographical region, poke was a type of greens you could fry and with proper seasoning make a tasty side dish.  A poke was a sack to carry your lunch in.  A poke was the front part of a sun bonnet that elderly women would wear.  Then there is the common meaning, as to poke someone with a stick. 

Here in Cincinnati, the word “please” means “I didn’t understand” or “Would you repeat what you said?”  In my home area of Southern Indiana, “please” was simply a proper way to ask a favor of someone. 

Don’t assume a word has only one meaning.  Engage others in a friendly discussion about the multiple meanings of certain words.  See how many meanings you can list for a particular word.  A good word to start this exercise might be “strike.”  Another is “fast.” What other words have multiple meanings? 

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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