Old words. New meanings

Words change in meaning as times change. The other day I found some one on the net referring to “Dal Makhni” as “decadent.” Can dal makhni, steaming , fresh and exuding an enticingly fine aroma be rightly called decadent? What the writer meant, i feel , was that, being laced with butter it was harmful to health. You may say it was used as a ‘transferred epithet’, to describe someone who indulges in eating dal makhni to excess and so goes into decadence. But I dispute this. Is there some one who eats the Dal to such an excess that it decays him, when there are so many other things that are so more alluringly , well, ‘decadent’.. Those who eat dal makhni excessively, most surely, will be eating chocolates and ice-creams too to excess. Do you call ice creams and chocolates decadent? But as some one told me once ,”Comparisons are odorous.” He meant, I believe , to say , “odious’ in stead of “odourous”
And coming to aromas and odoors, I found someone else on the net, describing a horrible smell as “heinous”. “Heinous”,as I know, is a word normally used to describe an attitude, deed or a person or an act of a person, No where have I seen it applied to a smell.
Of course , words change in meaning over time. Now a days , if someone says ‘Oracle’, it most surely, would mean the Oracle Database. If it is used in its original sense, you may have to reach for your dictionary to glean its native meaning. Another such new word is Cassandra. It now means another DBMS. Its original meaning is also very near to that of Oracle. Cassandra is a character, from The Greek mythology, who made perfect predictions, which however were not heeded by others. The is commonly used to describe doom-sayers.
I remember to have come across this word some five decades ago, while reading a book about the ‘silver-tongued orator’, Rt, Hon’ble V.S,Srinivas Sastri. Describing the prevailing sense of despondency during those days of the Depression and the 2nd world war, Sastri had said ,” Cassandras are dime a dozen these days.” I do not know why, but this sentence and the word lurking safe some where in the deep recesses of my mind, came out again after all these long decades when I came across it in its new garb.
Rt. Hon’ble Srinivasa Sastri, rose from poverty to fame by his hard work and his great command over the English language. Some where else in the book he says something to this effect, “The world is an exacting place. You have to bend down to get famous. Then you can make it bend to you. “.

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About versa kay

Agile, keen, versatile,considerate,patient
This entry was posted in History, literature, stalwarts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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