I understand that language will and must evolve to join with scientific discovery, technological progression, and cultural mish-mashing, but I'm more in favor of creating new language instead of just redefining words already used.
For example, I love the word google. It started as a proper noun and then the frequency of its use morphed it into the verb to google which means to investigate or to look up. I don't even mind that text has become a verb because the spirit of its meaning remains the same. That emo has replaced my generation's goth to describe that teen sub-culture is just fine. No problemo.
But, when a word that's been around for a while changes definition--that irritates me.
Currently, my students are setting up a mock trial based on the novel The Stranger. (If you haven't read the novel, don't worry, you can continue reading this post without becoming confused.) To keep these seniors who have mentally graduated motivated, I put them into legal teams, assigned them to be the prosecution or defense, and then paired the teams up to compete against one another. To take it up a notch, I informed the students that only one legal team in each pair can earn an 'A'.
A few days ago, they presented their opening statements. Robed, perched at my podium, I played the judge. As each team presented, the rest of the class acted as jury. After all teams had presented, I asked for jury responses. For one particular pair, the jury unanimously favored the prosecution. After the results were presented and the defense team was slinking off to their desks, one of the members of the prosecution taunted: "We smashed you."
Based on the content, I knew what the student meant, but my understanding of the word smashed did not compute with the situation.
To my knowledge, smashed had gone from meaning “totally drunk” in my day to “having sex” for the current adolescent lexicon. In fact, Urban Dictionary specifies that smashing is "fucking someone good" which if we apply the rules of grammar means "fucking someone who is a good person" so I am guessing that Urban Dictionary intends smashed to mean fucking someone so much (or so hard) so that the fucker dominates the fuckee. In a consensual sex kind of way.
And I don't allow fornication or drinking alcohol in my classroom, so clearly, the meaning has changed.
"Hey Cody," I called to the gloating student. "What does 'smashed' mean now?"
"It means like a landside victory. We totally dominated."
"So it doesn't mean 'to have sex' anymore?" I asked.
"No, it means that too," Cody said.
"In my day, it meant 'drunk'," I said.
"Oh, it means that too."
So now smashed can be counted with those words that have so many definitions one must provide several context clues so as not to cause confusion or panic.
For example, if I were to tell my friends, “I got smashed last night,” they wouldn’t know I got drunk, punked, or fucked. And then they wouldn’t know whether to stage an intervention, make fun of me, or buy me a chastity belt. They’d have to really sit back and think about which definition is more likely to be true. And nobody is gonna like the results of that.
That same day, I asked my college class how they use the word smashed. As it turned out, my college students don’t use it to mean “dominated” in a competitive setting. In fact, one student, Stevie informed me that “We actually used smushed to mean ‘having sex’.”
I dunno, being smushed is ever less appealing that being smashed. But because Stevie is a great writer with a unique spirit that I admire, I considered her clarification seriously. My conundrum was just getting more conundrummy.
Already planning to write a post on the usage of the word, I tested my title: “Am I Drunk, Punked, or Fucked?” to illustrate the problem with the multiple definitions. Several students laughed, which was the reaction I was hoping for. Charlie, who happens to sit behind Stevie, offered a solution, “Well, if you said, ‘I am smashed’ it would be more clear.
I presented my I-was-smashed-last-night example to illustrate that unlike talking to, smashed didn’t come with a preposition (or linking verb) to aid in the clarification.
Being another talented writer, Charlie was not discouraged, “Technically, punking someone isn’t the same as dominating someone in competition. Punking is more like a practical joke.”
These fools can’t use MLA format, but they sure as hell can punch holes in my rhetorical wittiness.
The conundrums were now smashing and multiplying. “Great Charlie, now I have to decide whether of want to be rhetorically catchy or denotatively accurate.”
“I like your title,” Christine, who sits in front of Stevie said. I asked her, “so stick with the title, even though it’s not accurate?”
“The inaccuracy doesn’t bother you?”
She shakes her head and I have to remind myself that not everyone is as anal as I am. And I mean anal as in “obsessively orderly.” Besides, Christine is a pretty good judge of when I am actually being funny and when I am actually being an idiot based on which of my jokes she finds humorous.
Nevertheless, I still did some online research before composing this blog. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, smashed appeared in the English language in 1819 to mean “crushed; broken to pieces.” It retained that definition until those rebels of 1962 used it to mean “intoxicated, drunk; under the influence of drugs.” No mention of fornicating, dominating or otherwise.
I did look up smushed on Urban Dictionary and I was right—it is less attractive that getting smashed. According to that site, smushed is “the act of pressing a flaccid penis against a woman’s groin area in a vain attempt at sexual intercourse.”
Therefore, as the self-proclaimed czar of diction and with the Oxford English Dictionary to back me up, I declare that smashed is only allowed to mean “crushed” as in “broken to pieces” or “drunk.”
Although, “Am I Drunk, Punked, or Fucked?” is a better title than “Am I Broken to Pieces or Intoxicated?”.