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There are words you have to be careful of using, because people no longer know their proper meanings. Disinterested is in grave danger of losing its ‘unbiased observer’ sense, with most of us thinking it’s synonymous with uninterested. And ‘refute’ is in a sorry state, shorn of all usefulness by people who utter it when they really mean ‘deny’.

At the same time, specialised words are reinventing themselves for all-purpose, popular usage. This isn’t, in itself, a bad thing, because language is always evolving. But the speed at which the internet scatters new usages into all areas of anglophone life is disorientating.

Take the verb curate. These days it can mean programming a music event or concert series, but also the simple act of adding stuff to your blog. I recently read of a new restaurant where the food ‘will be curated in a very stylish way’. Back in the day, you’d only be curating if you worked for a museum or art gallery and had ‘curator’ printed on your business card. I wonder if those curators who are the real deal mind that their job title, earned after years of diligent study, is being taken over by riff-raff with none of the right university qualifications?

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