On May 10th, 2015 we learned about

Blurring definitions since specificity would hold us too accountable

English is, literally, the least consistent thing on the planet. If the previous sentence made your skin crawl, I have bad news for you: literally is well on its way to joining the list of words that have been diluted and stripped of their primary meaning or impact. People have been doing this to languages as long as they’ve had them, and they probably won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Probably is actually another literally-esque victim of sloppy over usage. It comes form the Latin probabilis, which meant something was experimentally provable. It was testable, able to stand up to further scrutiny. But similar to today’s usage of literally mainly as a point of emphasis, probably was almost immediately overused. By 1387 it was watered down to basically mean likely, as we use it now.

Now is when, exactly?

People have blurred the lines on words attending punctuality as well. People often fudge getting things done “in a minute.” Moments, especially in customer service situations, often feel much longer than the “instant” they’re supposed to be. In the long term, this lengthening of instants has happened a few times over. Soon originally meant “now” in Anglo-Saxon. After a thousand years of broken promises, we now never expect soon mean any kind of immediate action. The same thing is slowly happening to now itself. If you really want to specify that something is immediate, you have to add right to now, otherwise it’s a pretty blurry point of reference. Perhaps once now becomes a synonym for soon, and soon is pushed back to eventually, we’ll have to rely on something like real-time or live?

Source: Bloody typical semantic shifts by Mark Forsyth, The Etymologicon

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