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One sound is always slowly on its way to becoming what will be another sound in the language at some point in the future.And that means that the way a word sounds is always in the process of moving along to something else.They tell you a word is a thing, when it's actually something going on. It's actually more mundane but in its way, more fascinating than that.And it's simply that sounds in a language are always changing.And it actually made perfect sense in Shakespeare's time.'Generous' meant 'noble.' So, he was saying, 'I'm noble.' Now, if you are noble, especially in earlier contexts, then chances were that part of what you did was give a certain amount of your goods to the surrounding populace as part of, basically, ruling the roost. " Author and professor John Mc Whorter of Columbia University talks with Econ Talk host Russ Roberts about the unplanned ways that English speakers create English, an example of emergent order.
Russ Roberts: So, let's talk about Shakespeare for a minute.And, meanings of words are always changing, not just because we invent new things, but just because meanings drift along--something that only implies the meaning today might actually be the meaning later.So, what that means is that while our own sense of the immediate is so immediate--so to speak--that we think that the language is something that stands still, that we're calling upon.And that's an illusion that is encouraged even more by the printed page and dictionaries.The truth is, what we're doing is just one snapshot in the whole life of the language.