While chance or “spontaneous variation” has a role to play in Darwinian theory, we can safely say that there is none in language change. Whenever languages change, they do so because something in the context is accountable for the change.

It is another matter when it comes to timing. A context may be conducible to a change, yet no change need occur, which means that changes are spontaneous when first introduced. Whether such spontaneous variations are propagated and continue to exist over time is another matter. Every change must be taken up by the language community en gros in order to perdure.

Very often, language being figurative at its core, something linguistic comes into being because of metaphorical innovation but need not be taken up by speakers at large. Such, for instance, is the currently popular compound in English, game-changer. This word is applied in popular speech to just about every situation that can be described as a fundamental change in circumstances. The transferred use of the component game testifies to the conceptualization by its users of every possible situation as something resembling a game. The fundamental meaning of this word necessarily involves the concept of “play,” which then means that speakers who resort to this compound are inherently taking every life-situation as a game. In the case of American speakers this is further evidence that we/they construe everything in life as being (at least potentially) less than serious.