ONE of the most beautiful things about our language is that it constantly evolves.

With each passing year, new words are added to the dictionary and old words come to mean new things.

Such is the pace of this perpetual change that some of us, particularly those of us who are not exactly in the first flush of youth, can easily be caught out.

We might not realise, for example, that the word ‘salty’ can mean upset and unhappy in addition to its better known meaning of being infused with salt.

Or that the word ‘beef’ can refer to ill feeling or grievance in addition to the edible flesh of cattle or the act of fortifying something.

Some other examples of this evolution have come to my attention recently, and I mention them here in the interests of promoting understanding.

The words are ‘power’, ‘consequences’, ‘tough’ and ‘firm.’

As luck would have it, they were all used the other day in a police statement following the revelation that knife crime in Swindon was up from 324 in the 12 months to July of last year to 345 in the subsequent 12 months.

The statement ran, in part: “The message is clear. If you carry a knife in Swindon or if you use a weapon anywhere, we will find you and you will face the full power of the law.

“Carrying a knife is illegal in the UK and the consequences are tough. A person found in possession of a knife – even if it’s not their own – means we and the courts will take firm action.”

Also as luck would have it, this comment came about three days after a 23-year-old man appeared at Swindon Crown Court, having been found in public with a large sheath knife and a smaller blade.

At the time he was serving a suspended sentence. His earlier crimes? Stabbing a man in the leg and being discovered two days later to be armed with a sharpened screwdriver.

The man is back on the streets, having been given a nine-month suspended sentence and ordered to perform 285 hours of unpaid work.

Thanks to this sequence of events, we can safely update our definitions of those four words I listed earlier:

POWER: Utter inertia. A complete lack of impetus or force. Example: “I decided to remove the engine of my knackered Mondeo and replace it with a dead pigeon. My car now has great power.”

CONSEQUENCE: An utterly non-existent thing sometimes thought of as, or claimed to be, real for various reasons. Example: “I don’t want my children to grow up too soon, so I’m dreading the day when I have to tell them there are no such things as Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and consequences.”

TOUGH: Weak, passive, timorous, unassuming, unassertive, devoid of fortitude. Example: “I’m really tough. I don’t want to go out of doors today as a dandelion seed might land on me and fracture every bone in my body. Or a sparrow might burst my eardrums by tweeting in next door’s garden.”

FIRM: Having the approximate consistency of an unset blancmange. Example: “My muscles were so firm after drinking two dozen pints of beer the other night that my friends had to use snow shovels to get me in the taxi.”

These additions to the gorgeous kaleidoscope which is the English language will surely be fascinating to anybody with even a passing interest in words and their meanings. They reassure us that the language is a living thing.

They may not necessarily reassure us that when we leave the house we won’t end up filleted, threatened with a good filleting or chased by a would-be filleter before we have a chance to return, but one can’t have everything.