When the way a word is used is changed, it has been changed for a reason.
Sometimes it’s the actual definition of the word that changes, such as the word issue. I talk about this in the book, and since it’s not the focus of this entry, I’ll just summarize: We now use the words problem and issue synonymously because somewhere along the line someone made the conscious choice to talk about problems in a less direct manner. Now, we all do it, so it no longer works. It’s still annoying, though–and getting more so every day.
Sometimes, the change is not as obvious as changing the definition of a word; sometimes, there’s a subtle change in order to make something sound less negative. That’s certainly the case with the word credibility and its sister mini-phrase, credibility gap. Credibility means able to be believed or trustworthy, which are wonderful traits, especially for a politician, and credibility gap is now a trendy way of saying lacking credibility.
Now, nearly every political commentator says something like President Bush has a credibility issue (don’t get me started on issue again) or that There is a credibility gap when it comes to this issue (correct usage!) when what they mean is that He can’t be believed or that He is lying about this topic.
Why has this changed? In my opinion, it’s because sympathetic commentators decided that this was a less harsh way of saying that the president lied and less sympathetic commentators followed their lead since people tend to imitate others rather than think for themselves.
Regardless, the result is a less-than-accurate portrayal of information.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever