Three Words That No Longer Mean What They Once Meant

I've got a bunch of booze-related stuff on my mind right now, but I need a bit more time to let it sort itself out. In the mean time, I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. Maybe you noticed one of the following changes while you were visiting with friends and family:

Ironic – Any one who's familiar with the film Reality Bites can define ironic, as one of the funniest scenes in the movie comes when Winona Ryder seeks support from Ethan Hawk after another fateful job interview. "I mean, can you define ironic?" she asks, believing he'll laugh with her and say he can't. "It's when the actual meaning is the opposite from the literal meaning," he says quietly before walking away. While that may be the dictionary definition of ironic, it's not what the word means these days. Almost twenty years after Alanis Morrissette sang an entire song about things that were tragic, unbelievable, and the result of plain old back luck, calling it "Ironic", we're now faced with a new definition of the word. Ironic today means anything coincidental or too crazy to believe.

Literally – Speaking of the "literal meaning", the word literally itself has completely changed its meaning over the last five years or so – at least in Southern California. Literally used to mean something happened to the exact definition of the word. You would separate it from the figurative sense by saying that you "literally fell over laughing," meaning that you actually did fall over – you're not just saying that for dramatic effect. Today, however, the word literally is used simply as an intensifier, helping to separate something kinda intense from something really intense. It almost means the opposite of what it once meant because it's often used in a very unliteral fashion. If you need an example then check out an episode of the Kardashians and watch the three sisters light up the screen. "I literally just went shopping." "I literally am so late for my appointment right now." Rachel Zoe is a good example as well.

Dry (wine terminology) – A dry wine is a wine that isn't sweet. A dry martini is a martini without any additional sweetness, i.e. vermouth or simple syrup. The term "dry" simply refers to the lack of sugar – nothing else. It does not refer to the flavor of a wine, the mouthfeel of a wine, the acidity of the wine, or the tannic structure of the wine. However, when most people describe a wine as dry (and this has taken me years to figure out) I think they're really talking about the herbaceous flavor versus the fruit flavor in their drink. Most often when I hear the term "dry" used in an uncertain manner it's in reference to Sauvignon Blanc – a wine with grassy, peppery, herbaceous qualities. The same goes for gin martinis – a drink with savory, peppery, herbaceous qualities as opposed to soft and fruity ones. When most people say they like or don't like "dry" wines, they'll immediately follow up that statement with an example of a wine they do like. That wine will usually be the ultimate example of the opposite of what they just said (i.e. "I love dry wines. My favorite wine is Rombauer Chardonnay). Today, when you listen to people talk about "dry" wines, they're usually referring to an herbaceous characteristic and the lack of round fruit or supple texture, rather than the lack of sugar.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll