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Exploring the World of Vocabulary Through Technology and Modern Culture

We take selfies while we commute to work, and talk with people on Tinder.

Imagine that you’ve traveled in time, and you’re talking to someone back in the 1930s. Imagine saying to them, “I’ll teach you how to surf the web, post updates on other people’s walls, and change your status every hour.” No matter how knowledgeable that person was in 1930s technology, they would definitely be confused. A “web” was something a spider built. A “wall” was only built of brick and mortar. “Status” meant the social class you belonged to, or earned.

Technology and the fast-growing culture we are all part of has changed more than just our habits and lifestyles. It has changed our language as well. Words take up new meanings. New words are created from scratch to give meaning to new concepts, technologies, and realities. It’s a crazy, crazy world we live in.

Tinder

Tinder use to mean firelighter; any dry, inflammable material people use to light a fire. Today, it’s the well-known match-making app that people use to light romantic fires.

Web

It used to refer to a spider’s web, but now it’s the daily reality for many workers, students, and people in general.

The word used to bring to mind things you’d find in abandoned homes or brush aside during long evening walks in the woods, but now it’s a virtual world in which you work, talk, and entertain yourself.

Surf

Sporty people surf at the beach or ride the waves on a surfboard, but today, surfing is also the activity of sitting or lying on your back and surfing the world wide web — not much of an outdoorsy activity, really.

Mouse

Mice were once pests in your kitchen. Today, mice are found everywhere and are no longer pesky. Today’s mouse is a device you use to move a cursor on a screen and click on links. We used to try and trap mice, now the tables seem to have been turned.

Application

You apply for college or a job, but forty years ago you would never have thought you would download and install applications on devices to play games, educate yourself, listen to music, or book your flight tickets. The times they are a-changin’.

Traffic

Traffic jams, road rage, and a boss calling to ask for your whereabouts, that sounds hellish. Modern day traffic is not that bad, though. In fact, online traffic is desirable, because it shows your business website gets visitors and clicks and people are interested in what you sell. Kudos to you!

Tweets

Tweets used to be bird songs that could be as long and intricate as the songbird wanted. Now we’re chirping to each other on our smartphones.

The web is a lively hub for neologisms and creative new applications of existing concepts. No one would have predicted that when we were talking about apples and blackberries we weren’t referring to fruit but smartphones. Nor did we ever imagine we would virtually check in to places we visit, and accept cookies instead of eating them. When you’re aware of all of the new ways words are used, you can devour the virtual world.


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