Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

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Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Envelope Generator » Thu Jul 30, 2015 2:46 pm UTC

This is a thing I sometimes wonder about when I see a word in a historical context that makes me suspect it once had a different tone than in the present day.

Image

Robert Bloch's novel Psycho was published in 1959 and the movie came a year later. What did the word "psycho" mean to the average person in 1958? 1938? What was the process that took us from Psycho bicycles to psycho killers? Are there studies of these things that I can read somewhere?
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Sizik » Thu Jul 30, 2015 5:28 pm UTC

According to this, the bicycle was named after the card-playing mechanical puppet.
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Aug 02, 2015 7:57 pm UTC

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby schapel » Sun Aug 02, 2015 9:54 pm UTC

Awesome!

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Envelope Generator » Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:57 pm UTC



There's this specific kind of phenomenon I was trying to get at but don't quite know how to express. What it was like to hear of and then experience (for instance) Psycho, book or movie, just when it came out and hadn't yet impacted the meaning of "psycho", is something that must require some work for us today to re-experience. How to experience something the way it was originally experienced, before the thing that was experienced caused a change in how it's experienced?

a) It's 1960, and apparently there's a new movie in the theatres that's named "Psycho".
b) It's 2015, and apparently there's a new game in Steam that's named "Psycho".

For case b I bet we all have similar expectations. But what were the expectations in case a?
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby poxic » Mon Aug 03, 2015 6:41 pm UTC

I could try asking my mom. She remembers being absolutely terrified when she saw Psycho in the theatre, then completely unimpressed when she saw it on TV a few decades later.
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Derek » Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:08 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure the meaning of "psycho" as "a crazy and dangerous person" was well established before the movie. It's short for "psychotic" or "psychopath". The bike meaning was probably just a short lived deviation from more common meanings.

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 03, 2015 8:07 pm UTC

Derek wrote:I'm pretty sure the meaning of "psycho" as "a crazy and dangerous person" was well established before the movie. It's short for "psychotic" or "psychopath". The bike meaning was probably just a short lived deviation from more common meanings.
Yeah, this is my guess as well. I'm not sure where Envelope Generator is getting the notion that the movie changed the popular meaning of the word, rather than being a reflection of it.

(The Online Etymology Dictionary has "psycho" as short for "psychopathic" from 1936 and for "psychopath" from 1942.)

Sizik wrote:According to this, the bicycle was named after the card-playing mechanical puppet.
And the reason for that was the original meaning of "psyche" as relating to soul, spirit, or breath of life. ("Spirit" of course itself refers to breath, and all of "psyche", "spirit", and "breath" come originally from the same PIE root.)
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Znirk » Tue Aug 04, 2015 6:44 am UTC

You mean something like The Beatles? Initially a lame pun, now just a band name.

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby WilliamLehnsherr » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:42 am UTC

You're looking for words that haven't just changed overtime, but specifically have changed due to popular culture?

A lot of people (well, my parents at least) blame video games for "versing". I don't know how common it is/was to say that someone writing poetry is/was "versing", but I think it nowadays means "play against".

Znirk wrote:You mean something like The Beatles? Initially a lame pun, now just a band name.


And surely I wasn't alone in not realising this was a pun and assuming "beetles" was actually spelt that way.

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby mathmannix » Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:17 pm UTC

WilliamLehnsherr wrote:You're looking for words that haven't just changed overtime, but specifically have changed due to popular culture?

A lot of people (well, my parents at least) blame video games for "versing". I don't know how common it is/was to say that someone writing poetry is/was "versing", but I think it nowadays means "play against".

Znirk wrote:You mean something like The Beatles? Initially a lame pun, now just a band name.


And surely I wasn't alone in not realising this was a pun and assuming "beetles" was actually spelt that way.


Yeah, I don't think I realized it was a pun on the musical term "beat" until I heard such cartoon knockoffs as The Beets (Doug) or The Beat-Alls (Powerpuff Girls)
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby liberonscien » Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:56 pm UTC

The word ratchet seems to have changed to mean horrible depending on how it is used.
I hypothesize that this change came about when individuals with an accent began pronouncing the word wretched incorrectly. Those who heard them mistakenly thought they were saying ratchet.
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:48 am UTC

I haven't encountered that - maybe some connection to the slang term?
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby stopmadnessnow » Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:45 am UTC

How do you define "pop culture"? We've had popular culture since the Egyptians.
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:38 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I haven't encountered that - maybe some connection to the slang term?
I think not so much "some connection" as that liberonscien was talking about the slang term itself.
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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby 00cc » Sun Apr 10, 2016 4:39 pm UTC

stopmadnessnow wrote:How do you define "pop culture"? We've had popular culture since the Egyptians.


I use the term "popular logic" which is similar, philosophically-speaking. Basically, it's socially acceptable ideas and/or word definitions that are parroted without thought. "Semantic memes" or some such nonsense. Plus, there's all of the trademark crap. You could probably get a pretty good idea regarding popular culture with a trademark search at the patent office site.

I did a simple search for "logic" in an effort to find out what the current, "popular" definition is, only to discover that there is now a rapper and 44k companies with the name.

Can one do a historical Google search that would eliminate "all content later than yyyy"? That would be "snatched" (which sorta does and sorta doesn't mean what you think it means).

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Re: Words before their meanings were changed by pop culture

Postby liberonscien » Fri May 27, 2016 9:42 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:I haven't encountered that - maybe some connection to the slang term?
I think not so much "some connection" as that liberonscien was talking about the slang term itself.

Exactly.
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