Questions regarding the associated or underlying meaning of a word, in addition to its primary definition

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4
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7answers
2k views

word to describe a person who catches the sexual overtone in a normal conversation

I know there is a word for it — I heard it when I was young. What is the word to describe a person who catches the sexual overtones in a normal (non-sexual) conversation? Here's one example I have (I ...
4
votes
1answer
356 views

“Motherland” vs. “fatherland”

What are the different connotations of motherland and fatherland? NOAD defines both as "a person's native country," though it adds "esp. when referred to in patriotic terms" for fatherland. The words, ...
4
votes
4answers
4k views

What are the connotations of “there” in “hello/hi there”

I'm an ESL speaker and I'm not completely familiar with the underlying meaning conveyed when adding there to a greeting such as Hello there compared to just Hello (punctuation omitted for ...
3
votes
6answers
1k views

Can the word “dehydration” imply “thirsty”? [closed]

As far as I know, dehydration means the condition of a body from which the water has been removed. Can the same word imply that the body is thirsty? Simply put, is "I am thirsty" the same as "I am ...
3
votes
4answers
801 views

Is “adorable” used to describe an adult?

I've heard adorable sometimes used for kids. Is it ever used to describe an adult?
3
votes
6answers
2k views

Synonym for “godchild” without religious connotation

In English is there a synonym for "godchild" (or the gender-specific versions) without a religious connotation but without necessarily having other specific connotations? All the words I'm coming up ...
3
votes
5answers
829 views

Is the word “classless” neutral in its implication, or does it have a derogatory tone?

I was drawn to the word, “classless” in Carolyn Hax’s answer to a reader in the counseling corner of Washington Post (June 7), which comes under the title, “How do you get back at a loudmouth? By ...
3
votes
9answers
25k views

The phrase “God willing.”

Does "God willing" have a religious connotation to it? What are some other phrases that mean the same thing but don't have this connotation?
3
votes
6answers
351 views

Ebb - is it right to say “ebb toward”, or does this word have negative connotations

"[company name] is a company of specialists who ebb toward new and innovative technologies.." I'd like to use the word ebb in the above sentence, although the dictionary tells me that it has negative ...
3
votes
2answers
437 views

Can you *donate* to a non-charitable cause?

I just had someone insist that a donation can only be to a charitable cause or organization; otherwise, the word contribution should be used. When I objected to "contribution" on the grounds that it ...
3
votes
10answers
1k views

Is there an adjective for someone who can withstand ridicule?

I've been searching both my mind and several thesauruses attempting to find the adjective that best describes this type of person. The term "thick-skinned" is the closest to what I am trying to ...
3
votes
3answers
381 views

I am afraid I look servile when I say “please” [closed]

In Korea, when I say "please", others think that I am servile. In English, do I look servile when I use "please" in conversation? I want to know the intensity of the word "please" in servility.
3
votes
3answers
704 views

How to call attention to “I” without “I myself” or the pretentious “even I”?

I find that in persuasive conversation, whether written or oral, it is sometimes useful to draw attention to the "I" in the sentence, giving the connotation that you are confessing or conceding to ...
3
votes
2answers
423 views

Connotations: “sanguine” vs “sanguinary”

I broadened this question after encountering sanguinary. 1. sanguine: optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation: 2. sanguinary {archaic}: involving ...
3
votes
2answers
299 views

What is the nuance of ‘Slipping’ when you say ‘I started slipping my classes short writing assignments?’

I found an op-ed article titled ‘Teaching to the Text’ in today’s New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.) interesting as a non-native English learner. However, I stumbled on a ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Can “the chickens have come home to roost” have positive as well as negative connotations?

In answering a recent EL&U question (Idiom for the phrase "someone who gets what he deserved"), I cited the phrase "The chickens have come home to roost," and said that it "applies ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Has the suffix “-trix” acquired a pejorative meaning in recent years?

A couple days ago I needed the correct word for a female aviator, which I figured was aviatress. A dictionary.com search provided aviatress, aviatrice and aviatrix as acceptable choices. ...
3
votes
4answers
231 views

Must an “accident” evolve from human error?

I've been censured for calling the nuclear plant incident in Japan a "nuclear accident". I've never exclusively reserved the word accident only for those things which evolve from or are precipitated ...
3
votes
1answer
358 views

What does “undoable” mean?

When something is undoable, does it mean that it has the ability to be reverted back to its previous state or does it mean that it's not feasible? I broke something on my computer and a fix is ...
3
votes
3answers
470 views

“Memorial” as a non-sad word?

Can one use the word "memorial" (noun or adjective) without the negative/sad connotation of commemoration of the dead?
3
votes
5answers
350 views

Do readers think of the word “ejaculate” beyond its common sexual meaning? [closed]

I am an editor, and a poet whom I work with has included the expression "I ejaculated little prayers" in one of his stanzas, which we all know has the dictionary meaning of "intensely calling out." ...
3
votes
3answers
484 views

Is there a difference between “less ambiguous” and “more unambiguous”?

Relevant examples: If you make the following changes your sentence will be less ambiguous. If you make the following changes your sentence will be more unambiguous. Do these sentences have ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

Boogie - Negative connotation?

I work in a company which has a product called "Boogie" (for reasons that the original owner knows). The product has been called that way for years in our French Canadian environment. Our few English ...
3
votes
5answers
778 views

Does 'fall in with' always have a negative connotation?

Often people say, he fell in with a bad crowd, meaning that the person happened to form relationships with an undesirable peer group or group of people. Does the term 'fall in with' always ...
3
votes
1answer
245 views

“Buy the farm” meaning

In Alice Cooper’s song “Hey Stoopid” from his 1991 album, there is a verse that runs like this: Now I know you’ve been kicked around. You ain’t alone in this ugly town. You stick a needle ...
3
votes
3answers
393 views

Does “moonlighting” have a negative or neutral connotation?

We all agree that "moonlighting" denotes having a second job. However, Merriam-Webster and Oxford Advanced Learner's don't define it in exactly the same way. For example, Merriam-Webster attaches a ...
3
votes
2answers
965 views

Fox and dog terms as applied to women

My curiosity here arises from the fact that it seems bizarre that "fox" and "dog" (not terribly dissimilar creatures - see Belyaev's fox experiment) would have such opposite meanings when used in ...
3
votes
3answers
575 views

Synonym with positive connotation for “peeping through the door”

She peeped through the door asking for permission to enter. Does peeped through have a negative connotation? If so, is there a better word or phrase to be used in such context?
3
votes
2answers
3k views

“Engagement”, “betrothal” — connotations?

I'm not a native speaker, so frequently I don't know underlying semantic subtleties of synonyms; what connotations they bear, which may be antiquated or very official, which are specific to given ...
3
votes
3answers
467 views

Does the word “evolution” connote “upgrade”?

Does 'evolution' means 'upgrade' ? 'downgrade' or just 'gradient'?
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Word to describe a sensation of death coming over your entire body?

This is the context where I want to use the word: He closed his eyes. The living did not come to mind, neither friend, nor family—only the dance of death, plain to see. The dancing figures of ...
3
votes
3answers
263 views

Is there any pragmatic implication in ‘Beaky has enjoyed London’ here?

It says on a grammar book that in some cases, the present perfect form has pragmatic meanings. Joan has broken the teapot. (I have to get a new one.) I’ve had a bath. (I’m now clean.) Is ...
3
votes
2answers
314 views

“Dabble” in a positive sense

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.
3
votes
6answers
1k views

A word similar to pride (without it's troublesome patronizing connotations)

I frequently want to express a feeling of pleasure to be associated with someone who is doing something exceptional. The phrase that comes to mind is, "I'm proud of you," but I am troubled by a ...
3
votes
2answers
467 views

Connotation of “complacence”

What is the connotation of complacence? Is it a negative trait? The dictionary makes it seem like a positive attribute.
3
votes
1answer
4k views

Any difference between “Are you done?” and “Are you done yet?”

I see people in movies saying Are you done? and Are you done yet? And I wonder what that the addition of yet might mean or suggest in the second version which is absent in the first ...
3
votes
3answers
275 views

What are some synonyms for “mindbody” or “psychosomatic”?

I'm open to synonyms for "mindbody" either as a noun (the combination of mind and body as one unit) or as an adjective (e.g. "psychosomatic" or "psychogenic"). But I can't have "psycho" in the term ...
3
votes
3answers
615 views

More precise word or phrase for neutral connotation of racism

Racism in the dictionary means a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own ...
3
votes
2answers
139 views

Does the expression “web technologies” have a euphemistic/promotional character ?

In German, I sometimes come across the expression “Webtechnologien” as a direct adoption of “web technologies”, which usually relates to software, programming, web development. I've always found the ...
3
votes
1answer
283 views

Connotations of “pertinacity”

Does the word pertinacity have positive or negative connotations?
3
votes
2answers
1k views

”See/wonder if +(a negative)” vs. “See/wonder if + (a positive)”

I’ve asked a similar question about ‘wonder if’ before, but I’ll give it a second try to learn more about a difference in nuance between a negative clause and a positive one. Just look at these ...
3
votes
2answers
75 views

Don't you do this vs Don't do this

Could anyone clarify, please, what the difference between these two sentences is? I heard an American woman say to her child: "Don't you do this!"
2
votes
8answers
4k views

What is the neutral way of telling someone to “do whatever you want”?

Do whatever you want This sentence can carry a negative tone (highly probable). Making it sound that someone is fed-up and/or simply doesn't care. Especially after one has had a heated ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

Is the connotation of “naughty” always sexual?

Does the word "naughty" always have a sexual connotation if it is used between adults? I'd like to use it in a notification-text of a smartphone app, e.g.: No naughty apps selected, where it's ...
2
votes
3answers
33k views

What is the precise meaning of “Pretty Good”?

Once I used "pretty good" as a reply to one of my friends' question "How are you today?", I was under the impression that the "pretty good" will weigh much more than just "good", means "very good" or ...
2
votes
6answers
449 views

Connotation of “appease” [closed]

Is "Bob did what he could in his capability to appease them" a positive or negative comment about Bob?
2
votes
4answers
417 views

“Dabbler”, without the negative connotation

According to dictionary, a dabbler is "an amateur who engages in an activity without serious intentions and who pretends to have knowledge". I want a word that means a person genuinely interested in ...
2
votes
6answers
775 views

Which word meaning “someone who kills bad substances” can be used in an ad campaign?

We have an idea to post short ads like "our company is hiring" in company blog posts. The company develops software and one of duties of people we want to hire will be finding, locating and fixing ...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

What does the expression “to add another dimension to the situation” mean?

Does the expression "to add another dimension to the situation" imply that the situation has become more complex? In Arabic we would say something like "adds another dimension to the situation that ...
2
votes
3answers
805 views

Does this sound vulgar or have sexual connotations? [closed]

I'd like to ask you to help me clarifying if a brand name sounds sexual/vulgar/queer for native English speakers. It is "I Job You" which is a social job recommendation site. However, we had some ...