language change and slang linguistics and lexicography

Old words, new uses

A popular theme on this blog is language change and, more specifically, the way in which words are taking (or have taken) on new meanings.

Here is a selection of archived posts on new uses of old words:

I’m a lexicographer get me out of here
A call for a new definition for the word celebrity.

The new F word
Why is fine not fine anymore?

Meanings change … but a treadmill will always spell punishment
Changes in the meaning of words such as treadmill, wireless, and random.

‘Genius’ and ‘rubbish’ and other noun-like adjectives
New uses of adjectives such as genius, rubbish, and quality.

Beyond the usual
The adverb beyond is being used to intensify adjectives – is that beyond alarming?

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Kati Sule


  • The word “trumpish” is used in Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot.” What did it mean in the 1800’s before our infamous president?

  • Thanks for your question, Robin. The word you mention must presumably have been used in a translation of Dostoevsky rather than the original, but I’m sorry to say that the word is not found in our huge corpus of modern English and I can find no mention of it in dictionaries up to and including the Oxford English Dictionary. There are similar words such as ‘trumpery’, meaning (something that is) of no value, worthless; and of course ‘trump’ itself, which has several verb and noun meanings. But of ‘trumpish’ there is no sign.

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