Language evolution in action

Here’s an example of how a word can completely reverse its meaning, from a BBC article about the Mid-Levels escalator in Hong Kong (also a cool subject in itself):

“We did the planning in 1984,” says architect Remo Riva, director of P&T Group, which consulted the government.

The verb “consult”, when used in a sentence like “A consulted B”, usually means that A asked B for their opinion. However in this case, it’s the P&T Group which were offering advice to the Hong Kong government, and not the other way around. So the sense of the word “consult” appears to have evolved like this:

“The government consulted the P&T Group” → “The P&T Group were consultants for the government” → “The P&T Group consulted for the government” → “The P&T Group consulted the government”

Funny to see this in action. And yet it’s still very strange to imagine that the word “nice”, for example, used to be pejorative, meaning a foolish or silly person.

Or in the case of the word “sanction”, made me completely misinterpret this headline: “Thai people urged to ‘socially sanction’ critics of monarchy”.

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