There are words that have changed meaning over the
generations. Think how cool
“of or at fairly low temperature” to an expression of admiration and approval,
sometime in the 1950s, and to this day. Think of how bad
became someone who is super cool in the 1980s.
Words are the writers’ basic tools. So we have to know them
and their ever-evolving meaning. Some are obvious when they morph, such as the
above. A teen’s comment to another that “you’re so bad” is a statement of
praise. Got it. But then there are the super subtle nuanced meanings that
require a good ear.
One of these that have perplexed me is the evolution of the
When I was growing up, and in the circles I inhabited, this
was as high a praise you can bestow on a person or a thing. Aside from the obvious
virtues of a principled character, intelligence and a good heart, being
interesting is as good as it gets. But when DD became a tween, I discovered it
has another meaning.
“Interesting,” she’d say, when she meant, “I don’t care for
it but I won’t say that outright.” It is said in a different tone, one that suggests
ambivalence. It got so I would follow these statements with a question, “do you
mean it’s riveting or that it’s odd in a way you don’t really care for?”
Eventually I just asked,” do you mean ‘interesting!’ or ‘interesting...
I thought it was a generational thing, or possibly a
cultural difference, as I grew up in another country. But recently I got some
feedback on a manuscript that began with “Interesting.” After the period came a
qualifying sentence that suggested the critic didn’t want to make an outright
negative statement, but they were not favorably inclined.
So this other meaning of interesting
has crossed over to my generation.
I find the subtleties of language, well, interesting.