Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Why We Say: A Twist on Past Words

Language is fluid. It can start out with one meaning and morph into another definition over time. Here’s a batch of words that have come into their own meaning through the advent of social media:

Tagging, traffic, fan, wall, hacking, search, viral, link, ping, feed, alert, tweet, are just a few. Here are a few others that have changed:


Past: a large nasty creature who hung out under bridges. Sometimes a word used with fishing.

Now: Someone who pokes around online and stirs up responses.


Past: pinkish spongy mystery meat squished into a can.

Now: Unwanted, annoying messages that arrive through email or even as texts.


Past: a chosen companion who shared common interests.

Now: a button-click indicating a degree of superficial commitment.


Past: a preference signifying a degree of indication of favor.

Now: a click response of rating that operates as a indicator of popularity.


Past: to send a written communication through the postal service

Now: a written communication sent through social media most likely as a blog (a neoplasm and a separate post).

What words have you seen come into existence or change due to the influence of social media?

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5 thoughts on “Why We Say: A Twist on Past Words

  1. Have to admit, this “post” intrigued me so I actually looked up some words that have changed over time and there are A LOT!
    But here is one that really stood out for me:
    Hussy: Believe it or not, hussy comes from the word housewife (with several sound changes, clearly) and used to refer to the mistress of a household, not the disreputable woman it refers to today.
    Interesting, huh?

  2. Huskeep appears in a couple of medieval ballads and never fails to amuse my students.

  3. “reach out” – used to mean “extending one’s arms with the intent to grasp something,” that turned became “to make an effort to do something for other people” and now means, according to the Urban dictionary: “A sort of sweet-talking, cliche term used by temp agencies and other employers to give you the impression they have some particular vested emotional interest in helping you, when really they are just screwing you over.”

    Face time used to mean “time spent in the same physical space with someone where you could actually touch them” and now means “using a handheld device to talk via video software.”

  4. There are so many. I think, also, of a few that we’ve changed the spelling of. Without looking at actual etymology, I think of a word like ‘phishing.’

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