October 11, 2001
12:20 AM   Subscribe

I was talking to my wife this morning about one of the kids "bombing" a test at school, and she asked me, "Is that good or bad?" I said, "Bad, of course. You know, you bomb a test, that means either flunking it or close to it." She said, "No, not any more, like 'it's the bomb' or 'we bombed that hill' on skateboards. Bombing is a good thing." Certain words and phrases are changing their meanings. Have you found yourself tongue-tied?
posted by JParker (18 comments total)
Ecstasy pills are sometimes referred to as "e-bombs." Some kids even say they're "bombing" when they're high.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:39 AM on October 11, 2001

Another Iceberg nuke. The thing that worries me is what effect it will have on the economy - have any of you guys overheard anything about this on the bus?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:43 AM on October 11, 2001

The real joy of speaking in mostly four-letter vulgarisms is it's timelessness. My constantly calling John Ashcrosft a mindless cunt means pretty much the same thing today as it did pre-9/11.
True, I don't get asked my opinion much any more, but it remains clearly received by those who do.
posted by dong_resin at 12:43 AM on October 11, 2001

I thought "bombing" involved Krylon, or at least some Rust-Oleum?
posted by canoeguide at 2:10 AM on October 11, 2001

hehhehheh, you guys are so old and suburban; no offense.
posted by elle at 2:23 AM on October 11, 2001

This change in word meaning doesn't seem to be a direct result of anything that happened on 9/11, as would be suggested by including that link. People have been saying "the bomb" for much longer than that.

If you think about it, many negatively defined words - such as "bad" and "the shit" - have been promoted to connote positive meanings.
posted by ringmaster at 5:40 AM on October 11, 2001

what a pc article. "dont use the word 'homelands' because the Nazis used it to refer to Germany!" give me a frikken break.

e-bombs away!!!
posted by darth_smoothies at 6:09 AM on October 11, 2001

"It bombed" has meant "it went down" in Britain for ages, while the "it went up" connotation is typically American. Of course, that might be because of the respective cultural history of bombing in the two countries....
posted by holgate at 6:36 AM on October 11, 2001

evolution of language = behavioral democracy

what's right is what has become accepted
what becomes accepted is what lots of influential people do
(redundancy/tautology with "accepted" and "influential")
lots of people do what a few people first start doing

posted by yesster at 6:46 AM on October 11, 2001

It's all in the precision of your word usage. An American wouldn't say, "I bombed that test" to mean "I aced it." But she might say, "That test was the bomb" though tests aren't very often the bomb to the people who use that slang. Notice that bomb is more of an adjective, not a verb. So if an American said, "I bombed that test" it would mean "I did poorly."

Also, this article is a pathetic layman's attempt to explain language, no matter who they quote. "Linguists" are complaining about word usage; pedants are.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:48 AM on October 11, 2001

"Linguists" are complaining about word usage; pedants are

Should be: "Linguists" are not complaining about word usage; pedants are
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:49 AM on October 11, 2001

I'm aghast at GW Bush's promiscuous use of "folks" for everyone from terrorists--"those folks who committed these acts"--to the WTC/Pentagon rescue workers--"all the folks who have been fighting hard to rescue our fellow citizens." It's not new for him: "I want the folks to see me sitting in the same kind of seat they sit in, eating the same popcorn, peeing in the same urinal," Dubya told Time magazine in 1989.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:51 AM on October 11, 2001

Hmm. You guys are missing the point. "Bomb" as a positive has been around for -- what? -- 10 years? And I'm not complaining about corruption of the language. It was simply that hearing my wife say "bombing is a good thing" was a conversation-stopper, where it wouldn't have been pre-9/11.

Another example: The DC fare dodger involved in the anthrax scare pulled a knife, and people stepped back. He pulled a gun and fired it, and people stepped back 10 paces. He pulled a bottle of Resolve carpet cleaner, and everybody hit the floor. Different reaction than pre-9/11? I would think so.

Our mental pictures have changed. Pre-9/11, you said terrorist and the picture that popped into my head was an I.R.A. radical with a pipebomb in a London subway. Say it now, and I see Arabs in turbans, and airplanes crashing into buildings. The article has a list of words at the end. Read them, and see what pops into your head.
posted by JParker at 9:10 AM on October 11, 2001

This thread reminded me of a news broadcast on CNN from Sept 12th. The long-time professional, Garrick Utley, was commenting on the shots of empty streets in Times Square they were broadcating at the time and made the following unfortunate comment...(paraphrasing)"These streets, usually bustling at this time of night, this evening are completely dead..."

I was in several airports on the 13th and had to catch myself several times before using the same phrase to describe the lack of activity. It just didn't feel right.
posted by tdstone at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2001

for some help with potentially offensive hipster-club lingo, just consult camper's friendly guide.
posted by donkeysuck at 10:27 AM on October 11, 2001

Interesting post. I ordered Sleight of Mouth several weeks ago, to educate myself on this very topic.
posted by redhead at 10:34 AM on October 11, 2001

JParker, what article did you see that in, about the DC fare dodger and the various reactions? If that was posted, I think I missed it. Could you please tell me where you found that? Thanks.
posted by stoneegg21 at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2001

Ah, the nuance of modern slang… It's the bomb.
posted by Down10 at 2:37 PM on October 12, 2001

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