Can a word be used incorrectly and still be 'useful'?
I've heard that pragmatists define true statements as those that are useful in predicting future empirical outcomes, to quote Wikipedia.
However, I have heard of words being used incorrectly that can still be 'useful' despite being incorrect. The words 'subjective' and 'objective' are often used in everyday language to divide and distingiush things that are 'a matter of opinion' from things that are 'a matter of fact', respectively. Although this is an oversimplified and incorrect use of the words, you can't deny that people still find them useful in labelling 'facts', as distinguished from 'opinions'. It seems that just because a term is 'useful', doesn't make its usage correct.
What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.
Interesting question, thanks! A word used in a deviant way would only have meaning if those who listen or read understand it. For example, I sometimes get confused in casual conversation and come out with a spoonerism -- a mixed up word. Usually, though, my wife understands what I mean anyway, by interpolating from a shared context. A new word, or a new meaning of a word, might gradually come to be accepted usage more widely. Slang words, in particular, tend to get picked up rapidly in this way. Let us say that the 'correct' meaning and usage of a word is determined by the dictionaries. But a modern dictionary is itself only a reflection of broad usage by speakers and writers. We have to go back quite a way in time to find a dictionary that sets out to adjudicate meanings, rather than simply record or describe them. So, the 'official' meaning of word comes about because of common usage. If enough people use a slang word, it ends up in the dictionary. Dictionaries tend to be a conservative force in...