I like the word “proof.” Apart from just being a fun word to say and spell and look at, it has such an interesting spread of definitions.

“Proof” can mean evidence of something – usually people use it to mean solid, undeniable evidence. To “prove” something means to remove all doubt, generally.

It can also mean a test copy – a “proof run” is a sample you make, often of written or other creative work, to examine closely for errors or flaws before committing to a larger run.

It can mean “defended from.” If something is waterproof, we say that it can’t be harmed by water. If your watch is waterproof, you can safely swim with it.

A bit more obscurely, “proof” is a measurement of how much alcohol is in something. If something is “80 Proof,” then it’s 40% alcohol (proof goes 0 to 200, so you halve the number to get the percentage, at least in the US – it varies by country).

Okay, so why am I using this nominally development-oriented blog to define a word? Well for one, because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want. But more than that, I think this is a wonderful example of the beauty of the hodge-podge. People like to complain that the English language, constructed as it is from the stolen pieces of hundreds of others, makes no sense. That there’s no formal structure to definitions or even the sounds letters make. That the “rules” of grammar are obscure and arbitrary. That it’s impossible to figure out from some set of first principles.

This is all true! And that’s why English is amazing. English is a champion of new words, of stunning wordplay, of humor and poetry. We can break the formal rules and get our meaning across in how we break them. We can create clever allusions and analogies and never run out of configurations.

English is wonderful because it’s always changing – every sentence is a test run for the next one. There’s no final form, no matter how formal. It’s immune to becoming outdated because it’s so adaptable. The slang alone is evidence of it, undeniably. It’s pure, 100%, 200-proof chaos in the very best way.

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