word of the week: wicked

We've all learned the word wicked with the meaning of 'perverso, malvado': the wicked witch - la malvada bruja, but in the 1980s, wicked began to be used, first in the United States, and soon afterwards in Britain, with the meaning of 'very good, great, cool': "we had a wicked time"- "lo pasamos fenómeno/guay."
According to Professor Crystal (BBC's Keep Your English Up to Date series): "it's part of a trend which goes back decades to use bad words to mean good concepts." So, nowadays if somebody says that something was wicked, the only way we have to understand whether they mean 'malvado' or 'estupendo' is their tone of voice.
Another word that has recently begun to be used, especially by young people,  with the meaning of 'very good, great', is sick: "he's got a sick car!" - "tiene un coche guay." Here again. the only indication you have to know if the car in question was 'very good' or 'very bad' is the tone of voice.
But  'there's nothing new under the sun', and in Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, first published in 1865, we find Humpty Dumpty saying to Alice in "rather a scornful tone": "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

2 comentarios :

  1. I haven't yet heard "sick" to mean "very good" but I assume it will soon start to appear in some movies that are being filmed these days.

    Just like you can hear "wicked", "groovy", "that's heavy" and similar slang terms in movies filmed in the eighties and nineties.

    1. I don't know about movies, but this meaning of 'sick' is to be found in BBC's Keep Your English Up to Date, series 5, and is commented by Jim Pettiward, who defines it as "sth good, amazing or cool", giving as examples: "That game was sick!" and "He's got a sick car". He affirms that the word has a "widespread use among today's teenagers in Britain.". The word is included in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English for Advanced Students (fifth ed. 2009) and, of course, in our own Diccionario Pedagógico Bilingüe, where it's labelled as sl.