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August 23, 2007

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If everybody is now using the word "nonplussed" to mean unruffled, unperturbed - can a meaning of a word migrate? To my mind, non means no, so I am not plussed, extra'd, added to.

Judyth: Well, I wouldn't agree that "everybody" is using "nonplussed" to mean "unruffled." But to your larger point, yes, words definitely change meanings. Over the centuries "silly" has meant "blessed," "pious," "happy," and finally "foolish." "Girl" used to refer to a child of either sex. But at this moment we have two words, nonplussed and nonchalant, with very different and precise meanings. I'm content to keep it that way in my lifetime. Afterward, who cares?

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