We were to give a tagline for a charitable society for underprivileged children. Someone suggested the human touch and within seconds someone modified it to the humane touch. What is the difference between human and humane or between human touch and humane touch?
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Here’s what ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ says:
As for your particular instance, human touch is the more ususal expression. Touch collocates more frequently with human than with humane. In the Corpus of Contemporary American English there are 122 records of human touch against two for humane touch. The British National Corpus figures are 19 and 0.
The noun human refers to a person. As an adjective, human means showing the distinctive characteristics (good or bad) of people, as distinguished from animals. The adjective humane means characterized by kindness, compassion, or sympathy.
Barrie England's answer has already given a bit of the distinction between human and humane, but I think it's important to expand on this. "Human touch" is an idiom, meaning a friendly, and pleasant way of treating people, or having the quality of being friendly, etc.
So a workplace might lack a human touch, in that it is not an inviting or friendly place to work. A person might not use a human touch when dealing with others, in that they are cold and unfeeling or unempathetic. So when you use the human touch you make others feel welcome.
"Humane touch" is not an idiom, however, it alludes to the "human touch" idiom. When something is humane, it means
So for a charity, using "Humane touch" as a tag-line is saying that this charity's touch is characterized by tenderness and compassion. As a phrase it sounds off to me because it seems like a mistaken use of the well-known idiom. But as a slogan it makes sense, because it refers to the original idiom while emphasizing caring and compassion over friendliness.
My personal opinion is that this tag-line is a little too cliche sounding, but its meaning is clear and (depending on what this charity DOES) it sounds like a reasonable tag-line.
In your particular case, especially, it would be more apt to say human touch. A charitable society differs from, say the state "machinery", in that it does not act in a routine, bureaucratic and mechanical way but includes an "I am here for you" kind of emotional ingredient to what it does.
People in distress or need look more for someone than something, however humane that something may be. It's more about psychology or feelings than grammar, I guess.
protected by tchrist Jun 13 '14 at 14:02
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