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Horrible and terrible

(7 Posts)
paxillin Fri 16-Jun-17 11:24:23

Let me start this by saying English isn't my mother tongue. I have a question for the wonderful guardians of the English language.

Horrible is a bad thing, and horrific is even worse. Why is terrible a bad thing, but terrific is a really good one? How did that come about? Are there more examples of this?

Ohyesiam Fri 16-Jun-17 12:08:40

Because English is illogical, made to of lots of other languages, and doesn't do rules.

There are probably lots of other example of this, but I don't notice then as English is my first language.

Enb76 Fri 16-Jun-17 12:14:05

Terrific literally means causing terror, the word usage has changed to mean very great (as in size). Lot of word usage in English has changed to come to mean the opposite of what it originally meant.

Enb76 Fri 16-Jun-17 12:17:07

www.dailykos.com/stories/2014/3/15/1284995/-Origins-of-English-Amelioration-and-Perjoration

Eolian Fri 16-Jun-17 12:20:57

Because usage of words shifts over the centuries.

I imagine 'terrific' went 'terror-inspiring' > 'awe-inspiring'> 'fantastic'.

Indeed, 'fantastic' itself probably shifted too. 'fantasy-like' > 'extraordinary' > 'extraordinarily good'.

But word meanings don't shift in a predictable or logical way. That's the nature of language. I expect this happens in all languages.

paxillin Fri 16-Jun-17 12:26:02

That article mentioned "awful" originally meaning "awe inspiring".

steppemum Fri 16-Jun-17 12:35:12

yes awful means literally full of awe, so it is still correct usage to use it that way, although most people would think you meant bad.

terrific is quite recent, in 1930's kids would be told off for using it as slang, in a similar way to kids today saying wicked or sick to mean something is great.

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