Sometimes I wish English would stop changing its mind about the meanings of words. I know that change is a sign it’s a living language and that its users shape it. But I miss the former meanings of some words. Examples:
* Disinterested. I use it the old way, meaning impartial. I never use it the new way, meaning uninterested.
* Sympathy. I, along with politicians when making speeches in times of crisis, use it to mean fellow feeling. Newer meaning is pity, which is thought to imply condescension and taking the moral high ground.
* Pity. It used to mean something similar to sympathy, with more of fellow feeling in it and nothing of the moral high ground. It’s a bond that used to link us to those in times of misfortune. Now big-footed empathy has crowded it out.
While I’m here, I might as well mention two pet hates:
* Empathy. It’s the act of imagining yourself into another person’s shoes. There’s only room for one pair of feet in my shoes. Go and be a crowds in someone else’s footwear, please.
* The phrase, “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now.” That is, “I lack the empathy to put myself in your shoes, but that makes me a person of uncommon subtlety of feeling.’ It’s found a lot in American TV shows like Dexter and occasionally in crime fiction.