On Monday, Andrew Crook had an article in Crikey which included this sentence:

Both the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia are listed as “session supporters” of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies’ annual gabfest, kicking off at the end of the month at Perth’s salubrious Burswood Casino.

The following day, the Comments, Corrections etc section carried this feedback from Steve Pratt:

Re. “Lord Monckton participation ruffles feathers at mining gabfest” (yesterday, item 3). Andrew Crook refers to Perth’s Burswood Casino as “salubrious”.

The irony of referring to a casino as “health-giving; healthy” (Oxford English Dictionary) is not lost when this story is followed — almost immediately — by one that starts, “It’s not uncommon to watch belligerent gamblers being marched out of Crown Casino by security after one too many bad bets. Boozed-up punters are regular fixtures on the gaming room floor despite laws banning gambling while drunk”.

There ain’t nothing healthy about a casino.

Perhaps Crook was using salubrious in an emergent sense, as included in a recent draft of the entry in the OED:

Of a building, an area, etc.: pleasant, attractive, comfortable; well-maintained, prosperous. Also in extended use, of a person, etc. Freq. preceded by less, more.

But it’s just as hard to think of Burwood Casino — or any casino — in those terms.

Also on casinos, Justin Shaw wrote in yesterday’s Drum:

Walking through the pokies room on my way to the toilet or the salubrious smokers’ umbrella just next to the carpark, I’ve seen them there.

I’m sure I’ve come across ‘salubrious’ to mean ‘dodgy’ or ‘seedy’, which is possibly how Crook and Shaw intended it, albeit sarcastically. But I’m now wondering if the sarcastic use of ‘salubrious’ is contributing to the development of a new contrary sense. In other words, people are beginning to use ‘salubrious’ without irony, to mean ‘dodgy’. I can’t find any real smoking guns on the web, apart from somebody owning up to using it in this way on a forum called Words You Wrongly Think You Know the Meaning Of.

So will ‘salubrious’ go the way ‘nonplussed’ where the original meaning of ‘astonished’ or ‘perplexed’ is now competing with a contrary usage as ‘unfazed’?

(Language Log has some discussion of ‘nonplussed’ here and here).

I’m interested in finding other words that are in the process of such a change. Mark Liberman gives the historical examples of perusefulsomemoot and nice, that have already done the full switcheroo.

Give us your thoughts.

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