By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

In our business, words are the foundation of our existence, so we often discuss which are the best terms or words to use in our PR efforts. It’s incredibly important that you keep up to date on the changing nature and meaning of words. Recently, we were discussing the Wisconsin Tourism Foundation’s decision to change its name. The decision came because the group often used its initials, WTF, instead of its full name. When the group was founded a number of years ago, those initials were just that – initials for a trade group. But now of course they mean something very different; hence the need to change the name.

We had the same thing happen with our company name. When Charlie Leonard and I started the business in 1992, we were called Leonard & Finco Communications. What started to happen in the mid-90s was that people would mistake our company for a telecommunications firm. Even the listings in the phone book were changing. Under the communications heading, it was almost all telecommunications firms. So, even though we consider ourselves communicators, we decided it was time to change our name to better reflect our core business: public relations.

There are lots of examples of word meanings that have changed over the years: Tweets (social media posting vs. the sound a bird makes), bad (it could mean bad or it could mean good), artificial (in years gone by it meant being full of artistic skill and now it means “not real”), hot (temperature, energized, radioactive or someone who’s very attractive) and bomb (which has so many different meanings you have to hear it in context to figure it out).

As with everything in life, things change and evolve. Words are no different. In our business, we have to keep up with those changes. Love to read your examples of words that have changed meaning throughout the years.