Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Language Is Queer

If I called you ‘nice’ a few hundred years ago, you wouldn’t know whether to smile or shoot me a filthy look.

That’s because nice comes from the Latin word ‘nescius’, meaning ignorant. And from the 1300s through the 1600s the word was used to mean: showy, cowardly and lazy, among other things.

Very confusing.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that it got its current meaning of pleasant.

And we like words to be clear. It offers security.

But clarity also sets up opposition.

If our thoughts follow language, we have trouble fitting events and conditions into more than one category.

Just consider sexuality. Many of us still try to fit people into distinct boxes, gay or not-gay.

But we now know that human sexuality is a spectrum which rejects binaries.

So once we learn language, it shapes our thoughts. And our ideas become at odds with reality.

But thinking also changes language.

Once we see something new, we explain it with old words and alter the words’ definition in the process.

Isn’t that nice?

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach