Melancholy in London

Does anybody else think that melancholy is too pretty a word for something that is supposed to mean sadness? Much like wanderlust and insomnia, there is something hypnotically appealing about these ambiguous words that draws me to them. My trusty dictionary stated the following:



Melancholia is too pretty a word to mean something so sad…


And this, much like everything else I come across, really got me thinking. When the English language came to be (even as a student of Linguistics, I couldn’t tell you exactly when that was) we attributed certain words to their counterparts, in other words, their semantics. If it was memorable, or if it sounded right, then it would stay and pass down the generations. If not… then it was back to the drawing board, I guess. Am I the only one that wonders why swear words are deemed so insulting if all they are is a particular cluster of sounds? For example, (quick disclaimer, I am not attempting to educate anybody, I am simply putting this ridiculousness into perspective with some false etymologies I came across in my studies) did you know that the expletive ‘fuck’ was supposed to have started off as an acronym decreed by the king of England? It stood for ‘Fornication Under Consent of the King’, and basically meant that you had to obtain permission from the king before having sex. The king would then provide you with a placard that you hung on your door, much to the amusement of your family, friends, and neighbours. My point is, where in the process of language change did ‘fuck’ become ‘Fornication Under Consent of the King’ to “I’m gonna fuck you up, blud!!!!!”

Call it rambling, or naive misgivings, but living in London has given me many obscure, mind-boggling thoughts on the matter. I feel that because I live in what is essentially a cultural hub, I come across strange linguistic anomalies every single day. I mean, why do words like ‘swell’ mean a good thing, when all it does is conjure up images in my mind of sprained feet and black eyes? Why do words like insomnia, wanderlust, melancholy, cigarettes, blood, smoke and evil sound so alluring, hypnotising and beautiful if they are deadly and dangerous things? You would have thought that somewhere along the line, people would have realised that they were attributing the wrong word to the wrong semantics, and that if this matter wasn’t tended to, it could lead to some very fucked up mindsets in the future. 

A few days ago, I turned on the news to learn that ‘adorbs’ and ‘amazeballs’ had been added to the dictionary. If anyone out there can help me out, that would be fantastic. Really.

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