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What's in a word?

Published April 07. 2012 09:01AM

This morning as I was watching "Good Morning America," I heard this snippet about President Obama's statement he made at The Associated Press luncheon about the use of a word former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said to describe Paul Ryan's budget. The word was "marvelous."

The President said, "One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency. He said that he's 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous', which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget."

There was laughter and he added "It's a word you don't often hear generally," and more laughter.

No, I'm not going to get into the politics of those statements. Instead, I want to talk about words.

One of the GMA's hosts then used the phrase "You look mahvalous." Do you remember Billy Crystal satirizing Fernando Llamas in his recurring skit of Fernando's Hideaway on Saturday Night Live! and saying, "You look mahvalous"?

OK. So maybe I would never have used the word "marvelous" when referring to any kind of budget.

But all I could think was, "Well, everything's going to be 'Marvelous' now." And you watch, pretty soon that wonderful word will end up with a crappy connotation.

It got me thinking about another word that kind of ended up getting a bad rap with its meaning that changed over the years.

Back when I was a kid, the word "gay" meant "happy." In today's world it means homosexual. Upon further research, (here's another word for you, etymology, the study of the origin of words,) the word started to acquire associations of immorality by 1637 and was used in the late 17th century with the meaning "addicted to pleasures and dissipations" implying "uninhibited by moral constraints." A gay woman was a prostitute and a gay man was a womanizer and a gay house was a brothel.

Who knew?

Or how about like in Tim McGraw's song, "Back When" when Coke was a Coke.

The word artificial originally meant "full of artistic or technical skill."

Your keister used to be your suitcase or satchel.

How about words that have more than one meaning? The word "odd," which I think to mean "strange," also means it is a number that cannot be divided into two equal groups.

Here are some more words with double meanings.

The mummy wound the bandage around the wound.

The farmer works to produce produce.

The garbage man had to refuse more refuse.

The maid had to polish the Polish furniture.

He could lead if he would get the lead out.

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.

Since there is no time like the present, here's your present.

The bass landed in the bass drum on the boat.

The dove dove into the bushes.

I did not object to the object.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

But getting back to a marvelous budget. If I were ever to use those two words together, someone would have to come up with a budget that was balanced, had huge tax reductions for taxpayers, and all the stupid stuff the government finds to subsidize is eliminated. Then, maybe, you could use "marvelous" and "budget" in the same sentence.

I hope I'm wrong and that the word "marvelous" will keep its marvelous meaning of "causing wonder, surprising, astonishing or extraordinary."

And on that note, I hope everyone has a simply marvelous Easter!

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