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I’d like to focus on one of the meanings of ‘dislodge’, to remove something. A dictionary says it means forcing or knocking something out of its position. What I’d like to know is if the word of itself contains two meanings, removing intentionally and accidentally, and waits for a specific context.

Here are my collection of examples for ‘dislodge’ that means removing something.

Italicized lines are my thought.

a). The wind dislodged one or two tiles from the roof. (From a dictionary)

It might be accidental, but if the wind is personified, strong wind would intentionally remove the tiles. So the meaning seems vague to me.

b). Ian dislodged a few stones as he climbed up the rock. (From another dictionary)

Either is likely. Maybe accidentally.

c). When Hermione returned from the trolley and put her money back into her schoolbag, she dislodged a copy of the Daily Prophet that she had been carrying in there. (Harry Potter 4 [US Version]: p.726)[Bold font is mine]

N.B.: Hermione is on a train. She just returned to her compartment after buying something.

I have no idea.

Questions

  1. Which are correct in the above three examples, accidentally or intentionally?

  2. What determines the meaning (accidental or intentional) of ‘dislodge’? Or is there no point worrying about it because ‘dislodge’ is undifferentiated in terms of the two meanings, like a stem cell? (Um, what should I say… I’m not sure if I can make myself understood.)

Why am I asking?

My mother tongue requires different words respectively for removing accidentally and intentionally.

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Dislodge does not imply intention nor does it imply no intention. The context takes care of it.

The “intentionality” is the same as in: to move, to eject, to uproot, to displace, to knock loose. Any of these can be intentional or unintentional.

In your examples:

a) I agree: only if the wind is personified it makes sense to even talk about intention, still this alone is not enough - the personified wind might have been rushing to get to the nearby mill and in doing so accidentally dislodged some tiles. Or it might have done it on purpose.

b) I agree - it can be either, however from the structure “dislodged ... as he climbed ...” it is quite safe to assume that his intention was not to dislodge anything, but to climb the roof. Therefore it was not intentional. (Do note that it is possible to override this with wider context, e.g. if the intention to dislodge rocks was established before this sentence, then the sentence does not describe an accident, but only establishes temporal relation of the events)

c) It is not possible to determine from this sentence alone if she intended to. I would assume no intention until such intention is revealed. The structure “when she did this, that happened” seems to describe unintentional action or it presents a consequence or it only shows the temporal relation between events. If the quote was “She dislodged the newspapers from the bag” I would assume intention.

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"Dislodged" is used to mean either something that just happened, with no intention or whatsoever, or it can mean accidentally, based on the context, or sometimes the word "accidentally" is added before (e.g. She accidentally dislodged a copy...)

"Dislodged" doesn't really have to be intentionally. "dislodge" is just an action. When the rain "wets" the newspaper, the rain didn't have an intention. The rain just wetted it. In the same way, "dislodge" is used merely to describe what happened, without going into the intention.

However, "dislodged" can be used, if it was accidental. Usually, if the text wanted it to be known that the act was accidental, the word "accidental" would appear before "dislodge". Examples : "I accidentally dislodged all the apples on the stand. They came rolling down like a waterfall."

But if it is accidental, we can usually tell by the context, what happens next, or what happened before.

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