Words that aren't negative in themselves but have taken on negative connotations

Title explains it.

Some examples:

Naive – Though there are many cases of willful ignorance, genuinely not knowing something isn’t necessarily bad. Nobody can be expected to know everything, and often those naive people have not had the opportunity to acquire that information (ex. children, uneducated people). Yet, being described as naive comes off as suggesting a person as childish or stupid.

Propaganda – Propaganda can have positive influences (ex. encouraging people to quit smoking.) But people usually use the word “propaganda” when they refer to messages meant to manipulate people for nefarious purposes.


I think “discrimination” would be a good example of this.

Maybe “bastard”, too.




Hmmm. How about: Juvenile.

I think this should literally mean simply young or undeveloped, but often used as a slur to indicate inappropriately immature behaviour. Also regularly found coupled with “delinquent”.

Docile, according to the dictionary means easy to teach, a quick learner. In the vernacular it means spineless and/or weak willed.

The problem w/niggardly IMO is that it sounds too much like a unacceptable word, not that it’s connotation has changed.

Healthy, as applied to a woman’s body type, has come to mean heavy.

Good one! There are many very legitimate reasons to discriminate against various people and things. If you receive two job offers, for example, you need to be discriminating to decide which one you should accept. You certainly need to discriminate when deciding if you should go out on a date with someone.

Fine. Especially vocally, it’s the epitome of damning with faint praise.

Segregation also has neutral uses if you leave out the “racial” prelude.

I could nominate a bunch, but I don’t wanna get banned! :smiley:

Beat me to both.

Niggardly is kind of an odd word we can do without, but I furiously resent “liberal” being turned into a cartoon swear word.

For many, “ignorant” has come to mean stupid, mean and/or evil.

“Adult.” Which meant mature, fully grown and now means pornographic in some contexts.

“Curvy” - at least in my experience, when you describe a female as curvy, the assumption is overweight - up to you if that’s negative I suppose.

Similar to “niggardly” is “snigger.”

Bitch has been totally corrupted.

Historically, tyrant meant head of state who was not seen as the embodiment of that peoples’ principal god - i.e., a secular executive. Apparently, some of these folks misused their executive power so the word took on a negative connotation. I swear, you fuck one goat… :wink:

Bureaucracy is simply the administrative structure required to run a government at scale. I was reminded of this as I was helping my son with his history homework - bureaucracy, and it’s effectiveness or level of corruption, was consistently referenced as a key criteria to a successful empire over the long term…

Politics, or political.

Tea party.

Situation (in certain contexts).

“We’ve got a definite type of situation” – Broadway Danny Rose (by which he meant “we’re screwed”).

Also,* issues,* as in “he has issues.”

“You need help”.

It has come to mean: “Go away and leave me alone, you’re crazy”"