Something in this week’s column makes me wonder if some of the language transformation we are seeing might be the fault of new(er) tools in a writer’s arsenal? (Yes, I know they have been around for years but I am of the opinion that, except for some notable examples, language evolves rather slowly.)
Ms. Freeman writes, “The Globe, a year earlier, had made the same substitution.” (She’s talking about using “unprepossessing” instead of the more appropriate “unpretentious.”) I went looking in the Word Thesaurus and phew, those two words were not directly linked, not that I could find. However, if you start digging through the layers (synonyms, antonyms) you could link the words pretty quickly. In this particular case, it might be more the fault of two words that people easily confuse.
But, the word “substitution” might be hitting the nail on the head of a bigger issue. Are we, as writers, using the thesaurus provided to us by Microsoft in Word (and other word processing tools) and failing to completely understand the proper use of a word before we use it? And, are these usages changing the face of the English language?