There are words that did not exist before and have been created since. Then there are words that meant something else in the past whose meanings have morphed beyond all belief over time. When such a change occurs over your own lifetime and the meaning of a word as you learnt it in school no longer applies now it is a very traumatic feeling. This once I mean to share that trauma with you - and no amount of pleading about how reading anything here is traumatic enough is going to help.
There was this nice little word 'gay', which meant happy in the halcyon days of my childhood. Now, apparently, it has been appropriated exclusively to refer to people who prefer their own gender for sexual activities. Things have come to such a pass that English teachers at school have trouble convincing students that when Wordsworth wrote "A poet cannot but be gay" in the 'Daffodils' he was not making any sweeping assumption about the sexual proclivities of poets. In these intolerant times, I am confidently expecting processions of heterosexual poets burning effigies of Wordsworth with shouted slogans of "Gali Gali mein shor hai; Wordsworth gaddar hai" for having ruined their chances with girls by this generalization about their sexual preferences. Simultaneously another procession of the - err is 'differently sexed' the politically correct term? - would indulge in a similar activity vehemently protesting the slur that they were harboring poets within their ranks. The life of words is indeed fraught with a lot of drama.
Attitude, I had always thought, was an attribute of the mind. To me, it meant the way you approached life or certain situations. Wrong, it turns out, in the modern age. Attitude apparently means the way you style your hair - have it stick out like the bristles of a mop; shave the scalp to see a glimpse of how you will look in the future without wigs; make it appear like a freshly plowed field with nicely symmetrical furrows; color it as though you had been painting your house and forgot the turpentine; whatever. It could also mean what you do with your facial hair. Depending on your 'attitude' you could either leave hair on your face where it is anyway difficult to shave off or you could leave it where it makes it difficult for you to shave every day. This rather novel definition of attitude - as something that comes out of the hair-stylist or beauty saloon - was a real shocker to me and I still have not completely digested it.
I really cannot claim that the word 'loser' has changed drastically but the emotional content attached to it has morphed beyond all recognition. A 'loser' in my youth meant a guy who had tried and failed. A 'loser' nowadays means a guy who is a failure. Both seem the same to the guys of today, apparently, but to me there is a world of difference. To illustrate, I once participated in a 100m running race at SPIC - only because I was a trainee then and all participants in the sports events were given the day off. A full day holiday for a mere one minute exertion sounded attractive. The first heats in which I participated all the other contestants had crossed the rope by the time I finished 'running' the first 50 meters. I was summarily called off in order to allow the next heats to progress. I came over to a great sound of laughter and declaimed, "I was the man behind all the victors". That was that! I mean, I lost the race all right but SPIC did not call me the next day and chuck me out of a job for being a 'loser'.
A 'loser' - when used to mean 'a failure' - ought to be applied only to a person who has the wrong attitude and has lost all gaiety. Huh! Wait a minute! I do not mean to say that a failure is someone who has changed his hair-do and re-aligned his sexual proclivities. Whenever will I master this new lingo?