Semantic hijacking: the use of a word to mean something different. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about verbing nouns
; although this is confusing
it's hardly changing the meaning of the word, more ignoring the conventional rules of syntax
When a word's meaning is hijacked, the original meaning of the word is by no means always ignored; having fun with semantics seems to be half the fun or 'reusing' a word. Often, words are hijacked to mean their exact opposite
bad, sick, ill ...
is a particularly interesting example of a word which has been semantically hijacked. Twice. Originally meaning bright and colourful, it was stolen to mean homosexual
some years ago. Now we increasingly we see it being used an a derogatory adjective.
"Man, that Jesus Chair is so gay"
(If you want to know more about the (mis)use word gay, then writeups under gay
and "gay" being used as an adjective for something bad
say it all).
So who does this hijacking? The glib answer is that we all do, all the time. Language is by no means static or absolute - it twists and moves in an altogether organic manner. Young people are often held responsible for hijacking words; slang is the most 'alive' part of language with new words appearing seemingly every day. Bling Bling is a 'black' word, and although it isn't an example of an existing word which has been hijacked, it does demonstrate how quickly slang changes. I'd never heard of it until Ali G used it in an advert last week. This probably means it's been doing the rounds in schools for months, but then I don't claim to be current with youth culture and slang. Update: 3 years later and it's everywhere.
Semantic hijacking has, sadly, resulted in many words we can't say anymore.