Whenever I use the phrase "do you mean to say", I notice that the word "mean" has a variety of negative connotations (cruelty, harshness, etc.) Is there any alternative for this phrase that doesn't have such unpleasant connotations? ("Do you mean to say this" sounds very similar to "what you said was mean", despite having a completely different meaning - that's why I'm concerned about the connotation.)
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closed as not a real question by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, Carlo_R., Matt E. Эллен♦, tchrist Nov 22 '12 at 14:16
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Though I can't imagine someone (unless it's a non-native audience) taking "mean" in the wrong sense, here are a couple other ways to ask the same question:
Sorry, but "Do you mean to say this?" doesn't sound at all similar to "Do you say this meanly?". Although a few of the words are the same, the ideas expressed are as distant as Durban and Detroit.
"Do you mean to say this?" is always a negative statement because it implies one of two possibilities: (1) What you said wasn't clear enough for me to understand. Did you really want to say "ABC" instead of "XYZ"? or (2) I'm sorry, but I'm not very good at understanding what other people say unless it's said at my level. Did you really want to say "ABC" instead of "XYZ"?
What is the context of the situation?
For me, it would mean( here: the word used as a verb ) either that 1) you want to make sure that someone you are/were talking to meant something you thought about or 2) you want to correct someone's incorrect use of phrase/word etc.
The second situation may be read as you are being rude, as people simply do not like to be corrected by others. Otherwise it shouldn't have negative connotations.
And of course, a second answer to your question may be that you confuse a verb : to mean - to express or represent something such as an idea, thought, or fact ( Cambridge Dictionary ) and a rather colloquial use of an adjective mean example: You are mean to me! which can be interpreted as someone is being not nice/rude/cruel to the other person. Then, the connotation with the ADJECTIVE - mean - would be negative.
I hope I did help.
Yesterday, I had just answered a question about dysphemistic euphemism - the use of gentle phrases pejoratively due to the deteriorated effects of the euphemism.
In this case, we are looking at a similar effect - aggressive amelioration.
Normally, we would use ameliorative phrases and words to be polite. e.g. the use of the word please.
However, due to the authoritarian projection of such ameliorative expressions, they have taken on an aggressive impression:
One common step to sustain the ameliorative effect of a phrase is the use of subjunctive (which is effective mostly only on native speakers, who normally understand the etiquette of using the subjunctive). Otherwise, using the past tense rather than the present tense:
The word please has taken on a rather aggressive ameliorative effect lately and frequently should not even be included if a statement is meant to be sincerely ameliorative.
The placing of the word please affects the mood