Ways in which the English language has changed in America

Hello my English-learning and speaking friends!


I've been marvelling at how quickly my native language has been adapting to new ideas. That made me think that perhaps some of you might have old text books or be watching old movies and might not be aware of some of the ways in which our word usage and expressions have changed, or maybe it might be just interesting to think about how things are changing. 


We've been a lot more conscious about language that is demeaning to certain groups. Many words that were once male oriented have changed over to words that will encompass the fact that women now do most of the same jobs that only men did in the past. We no longer use many of the expressions and terms that are inusulting to racial groups. Where this was not too long ago perfectly acceptable in common language it is now something you don't do... at least in public. ;)


As I think of words that I've seen change I'm going to post them below. I invite others to post words that they've seen change or that they see have changed from the old movies and books that they have as well.


I welcome you to even add things that you think would be a good idea to change for the future. 


I'm hoping that this will be a fun and eye-opening little project for us. As a native English speaker I am still learning English and probably forever will be so I'm hoping to learn something here too!

Jun 28, 2014 5:16 PM
Comments · 20

You're welcome Sky. 


There have definitely been some radical changes in how we refer to people of African descent here because of America's history with slavery and inequality. One thing that used to be accepted a long time ago but which still once in a long while will happen is a white person calling a man of darker skin color, "boy". Even if you hear this in a movie or in an old book I highly suggest you never do that! It's extremely degrading. 


That history is why I don't much like what's happening in America with fully grown women being called and calling themselves girls. That's something I personally wish would change. I've noticed a big increase in women calling each other girl with sayings like, "you go girl!" I understand that it is supposed to be light hearted, but I think I'll only go for it when white men start calling each other "boy" too. :) 





June 28, 2014

Earlier we had Chairman and probably now we have Chairperson? But Bill Gates was called as Chairman of Microsoft till Feb 2014! So I am not sure.

June 28, 2014

What Mike says is true NoA. I would add that an older person might call you "son" out of affection. It's like they think of you as a son, a younger person that they are taking under their wing to teach and help in some way. It's something that is used more in the South I've noticed. 


Most people actually DO use "you go girl!" as a way to be playful and supportive. I am a person though that believes very strongly in the power of words. I think that if women are to feel strong and equal in our culture they should not use words that have a sublimal or implied aspect of demeaning, especially with each other. Which words have what meaning and power is going to be radically different from country to country and in each language depending on the language as a whole and the history of the country. For most of my life men have been condescending to women (including me) in America by calling them things like girl, sweetheart, dear and other words that in English are words of lesser power and strength used to address children and family. Men have used those words to try to bring down grown women with power so hearing women start to actively address each other as "girl" strikes me as if nothing else, strange. It would be like African American men calling each other boy to be playful. I guess African American men do use some words to refer to each other that no other race is allowed to say to them, but even that seems strange to me. Women today seem to be ok with men calling them girl even if they are 80 and the man is 20. I hope this changes. 


To 99.99999% of the women in America, if you say "you go girl" they wouldn't think twice about it. I happen to be one of the few that thinks a lot about words and their history and their meaning. You are going to be ok in 2014 saying, you go girl, to almost any woman, but I still put in my teeny tiny vote that you don't. :)

June 29, 2014

Sometimes "son" is used like "dude" or "man". Often in the phrase "shit son!" Definitely slang, but not necessarily offensive. 

June 29, 2014

Server also sounds really awkward in my opinion, though it is used on occasion. 

June 28, 2014
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