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Common Words with Multiple Meanings

A guy sends a text message to his architect friend, “I need an update”. The guy never gets a response back, so he forgets about the text he sent.

Six months later, the guy gets a HUGE invoice for a new modern house built on a cliff in Norway, looking out over the sea.

The guy calls his architect friend and asks, “What is this invoice for?”

“Your new home update”, the architect friend replies. “Why? Don’t you like it?”

The guy clenches his teeth and responds, “I wanted to get an update on how your family is doing!”


Lately, I’ve noticed how common words that formerly had one meaning are now being used in technology with a variety of different meanings.

An older example is the word “excel”, which I remember being a word used more commonly as a verb. To excel was to gain speed, like on your bike or in a car. Then “excel” became a business catchword for how to quickly make money. Suddenly, many were naming their businesses and programs “Excel”. Microsoft even named their spreadsheet program “Excel” so you can watch your business… excel. Notice how “decelerate” never really caught on.

I went to a seminar called “Agile Marketing”. Agile, being another descriptive word, I thought the seminar would teach us how to ask for website content in a way that wouldn’t take much time, but would be thorough. Then I started noticing the word “agile” used in reference to web developers. After asking a few people, I decided “agile” was simply a word used to describe something that has the ability to change quickly. As it turns out, the presenter used to be a web developer who used a project management system called “Agile”. He was showing marketers how to use this system and make it work with marketing teams and projects. The seminar was useful, but not what I was expecting.

Let’s go back to the word, “update”. Update can have several different meanings to different people. I was trying to think of a clever way to explain the different meanings by making groups. If I make the statement, “the meaning of an update depends on the end user”, that statement is flawed because what about all the users in the middle? Therefore, I’m abandoning the idea of making this explanation easy. This is English after all. Instead I would like to list out several meanings and scenarios where the word “update” is used in my work as a web designer.

The multiple meanings of the word “update” in web design:


  1. This website needs an update: we should change to a different platform like Word Press.
  2. This website needs an update: the design should be more modern/contemporary.
  3. This website needs an update: the colors should match our new store.
  4. This website needs an update: right now it only has static content like store hours and an address. We want customers to interact with the site so customers can get store hours for several different locations in one place.
  5. This website needs an update: It’s hard to read on my phone.
  6. This website needs an update: Some of the images and articles are from 2003!
  7. This website needs an update: I noticed the holiday store hours are still posted and that was over a week ago!


My only conclusion and advice is this, “Don’t use the word ‘update’ as a noun and stop there. It is also a verb, which is an action word. Use it as a segway to be followed up with project details. Maybe this will help avoid surprise invoices for big houses in Norway.

Why do I work at AWG? “It’s hard to find a native Kansan who doesn’t have family living in a small town community... and I am no exception. My family tree is full of farmers who have helped put food on our tables for over 100 years. So when I hear of a small town’s only grocery store closing down it hits home. Even though I now live in a big city, I like to know through my work I can help keep small independent grocery stores stay open for future generations to enjoy.” -Sharlyn