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Hi,

I also asked this question in another post as a side-question.

My question was:

''why is it very common for almost every English word to have so many different meanings?''

Mister Micawber's answer was:

''English words have a number of meanings so that we can save money on typesetting costs. Actually, I am sure that many languages are characterized by polysemy. Japanese kanji are even pronounced in totally different ways, so that some of my students are unsure of the pronunciation of the the words of their own language.''

Is it really true that English words have a number of different meanings just to save money on typesetting costs or is there some other factor also involved?
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Mr M was only joking.

(Most words developed long before typesettting and of course, if you are printing it doesn't save on cost to print the same words lots of times instead of different words once.) Emotion: big smile

His real point is that this is not a feature solely of English.
Then let me rephrase my question.

Why is it very common for almost every language to have so many different meanings for a single word?
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If language came about because people formed committees to invent each language, they probably would do it differently, and they probably would not give multiple meanings to a single word, but that's not, of course, the way languages come to exist.

Languages have different meanings for a single word as a result of the accidents of history.

Sometimes two words sound very similar. Over the years, people start to pronounce them the same. For example, shock as used in a shock of grain comes from the Old Saxon word scok, and shock as used in shocking behavior comes from the French word choque.

Sometimes two concepts are similar enough that it makes sense to use the same word for both concepts. For example, safe means secure from danger, so a strong box where you can feel secure storing your money is called a safe.

People get used to the the idea that the same word can have multiple meanings as languages change over time. Each word which has multiple meanings has its own history and some unique reason that applies only to that one word. There is no general answer that applies to all such words.

CJ
CalifJim
Sometimes two words sound very similar. Over the years, people start to pronounce them the same. For example, shock as used in a shock of grain comes from the Old Saxon word scok, and shock as used in shocking behavior comes from the French word choque.

Hi Jim,

Sorry for digging up this old thread. It would be kind of you if let me know the meaning of shock of grain. Thank you.

A shock of grain is the same as a sheaf of grain. It's a bundle of grain (wheat, oats, rye, etc.) It's newly harvested grain tied up into easy-to-handle bundles.

See the following pictures.

The shock of grain may be a little difficult to see in the last picture. It's in the center.

CJ

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Thank you for the explanation.
CalifJim safe means secure from danger.
Following this, why do we say I'll keep it safe and secure? A very common phrase, but is it correct? Seems an unnecessary repetition. I'm sure there are other phrases like this too

Thanks
Perhaps, this is done to add emphasis. You will have to wait for a couple of hours because, I believe, Jim is sleeping right now.
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