Usage And Meaning Over Time Essay

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I chose to research the word “fair” taken from line 2 of Sonnet 106. I chose this word because I knew there would be some changes in usage and meaning over time. In modern speech, the word “fair” has several meanings. The most common definition used in modern speech is equal, just or reasonable (def. 18b). If something is fair, then all parties are treated equally and nobody is unhappy with the result (def. 18b). Another common modern usage is in grading items. Something that is in fair condition is in acceptable condition but has several minor flaws (def 15c). This contradicts older definitions of “fair” because the term was usually used to describe something beautiful and without flaw. Most of the older definitions listed in the OED are not similar to modern usage. In modern speech fair is rarely used an adjective to describe physical beauty. These older definitions of “fair” are used to describe a pleasing physical appearance, not necessarily the state of something, as in grading, or equality. The OED etymology indicates that the word “fair” first originated in Old Saxon with the meaning of pretty, beautiful or peaceful. It is also seen in Old and Middle High German, Old Icelandic, Swedish and Danish with similar meanings. In the Old Icelandic definition light and bright are included. In Gothic, it means suitable or fitting which is closest to the modern usage of the word. While there are several small changes in meaning or additional meanings in these languages,…

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