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Can the word "dabble" be used in a positive sense?

As in,

A true "master of all trades", he has dabbled in several fields & contributed to numerous scientific advances.

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..when is dabble used negatively? – HaL Apr 14 '11 at 20:24
I agree with @HaL; dabble doesn't really have a negative connotation. E.g., The World's Most Interesting Man might be said to habitually dabble in art, extreme sports, political intrigue, and exotic women, but no one in their right mind would call that a bad thing. – Uticensis Apr 14 '11 at 21:36
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Dabbled in carries a not negative connotation, but a somewhat dismissive tone. As in, "I dabbled in witchcraft and it wasn't for me." Dabbling doesn't have a sense of permanency to it in terms of one's interest in a matter. That said, "I dabbled in novice physics books and am a bit wiser for the effort" would certainly bear a positivity about it.

Mostly, it just depends on how one extends or qualifies the impact of dabbling. Dabbling seems to have a certain antecedent>consequent structure to it that implies the positive/negative; i.e. with both example phrases above there is no +/- value until the "and..." statement created one.

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In BE it is a positive sense - to dabble in something is gentlemanly.
Only a foreigner would need to exert themselves.

(The above may account for Britain's expected performance in a certain sporting event to be held in London in 2012)

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