Aren’t Hardly

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This morning, I caught myself saying “Today there aren’t hardly as many crows as yesterday.” And I wondered where “hardly” came from.

Like saying “Do you prefer these ones or those ones?” the word “hardly” is akin to the word “ones.” It’s totally unnecessary.

I could make a case that “hardly” in my sentence is an intensifier of sorts (this morning there were only four crows in the front yard and yesterday there must have been about 30). But wouldn’t “nearly” have worked better? No. The more I thought about it and said it out loud, the more “Today there aren’t as many crows as yesterday” seemed perfectly adequate.

“Hardly” has been used this way for a long time. But originally it meant “harshly.”

So how do things like that creep into our mindset and speech?

I can remember years and years ago when I first heard a young person (meaning anyone younger than me) say “these ones.” It grated on my ears. It offended my sense of good speech (not that I’m an expert, but there are some things that just chap my hide). Then before long, I began to hear people my own age and older using the word “ones” in the same way.

It boggled my mind.

I had a revelation once that rocked my world. For my 21st birthday, my sister gifted me a dictionary. She knew how much I loved words. I still have it even though it is woefully outdated now. Yes, outdated.

In the beginning of the book was a list of the people on a panel who reviewed all of the words in the book for changes in usage. It was then I realized that words could change meaning based on how people used them. That it wasn’t the word that had intrinsic meaning. People give words meaning. I couldn’t believe it at the time. I mean, if you couldn’t rely on a word to mean the same thing to everyone everywhere all of the time … well that was too chaotic.

Flash forward to today. Ask is now a noun. Woke doesn’t just mean you stopped sleeping. Gaslight has become something other than a thing that offers illumination. It bothers me even though I know it probably shouldn’t. Apparently it is the natural order of things that words get repurposed. But I’m not sure I will ever truly become accustomed to it.

And that’s my thought for the day.

Courtesy of Tarun’s Blog

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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