Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Awfully Terrific Horrifying Post

If I said I was anxious about a test, you wouldn't blink. You would understand my meaning.
If I said I was anxious for my trip to Maine, you would know I was looking forward to it.

If I said I had this terrific new job...
You would assume the job was great!

If I said I was horrified by my new boss, the meaning is clearly that he is scary.

I could say I was both awfully glad to see you and awfully sore from riding a horse.
I could even go so far as to say I had an awful headache. But I could never say it was awful to win the lottery without you getting a negative connotation from that sentence.

When did these words come to mean something different than their roots suggest? Why did terrific move so far into charming territory that it wasn't scary?

I tried to look up the etymology and all that I could find was that the change took place somewhere between 1812 and 1888...
Anyone have a clue?

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