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

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4
votes
3answers
201 views

Could you please do X vs. Could you do X please

I'm an English teacher, and I heard a student say "could you please open the window" the other day. To my ears, "could you please open the window" as a construction sounds exasperated, even ...
6
votes
2answers
134 views

“the writing is on the wall” vs. “the handwriting is on the wall”

This morning I heard on NPR someone mention that: "The handwriting is on the wall". I had a notion that it was a biblical allusion, which was confirmed by: ...
0
votes
1answer
41 views

Yearning without Hope

I was reading Poe and thinking about his work. Then I thought his dark-romantic style seems like a huge yearning without any hope but I was not sure if this is possible. Does the word yearning contain ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do we call snail mail “snail mail”?

Why do we call snail mail "snail mail"? So by default mail will refer to email?
1
vote
0answers
25 views

Connotation of a sentence in a listening material from TPO

(Here for the original audio source (MP3 file). The part in question begins approximately at 2'18'') This conversation is an excerpt from one listening material in a TPO (TOEFL Practice Online) test, ...
0
votes
3answers
86 views

What's a similar word to 'precocious' with a positive connotation?

Precocious, per its definition, describes a child in a positive light. But in practice, many tend to use it in a negative way, and I feel the negative connotation outweighs the positive. So even when ...
6
votes
3answers
324 views

What does Macbeth mean when he says his heart is “seated”?

Here's the quote (from The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare): This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, ...
7
votes
5answers
7k views

“Destiny” vs. “Fate”

I'm aware a search will turn up many discussions on the differences or interchangeability of these terms, but it would be good to get some answers here with an emphasis on the etymology of the two ...
2
votes
6answers
5k views

Difference between 'Redundant' and 'Superfluous'

(I made a search for this question on this forum but surprisingly did not find related questions. Which is odd because surely this question is asked often.) First, the sentence I'm trying to use ...
4
votes
2answers
179 views

Does the word ‘hard-boiled’ have a positive connotation?

Upon a quick google search 'hard-boiled' means tough and cynical even though it doesn't say that this is a disapproving term. One of the synonyms of this word is 'hardened' which means 'very ...
4
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
16
votes
6answers
1k views

Does the word “newbie” have a negative connotation?

Imagine that I'm running a friendly and informal online business. I would like to introduce my service to the new customers by a blog post that entitles, 'Are you a newbie to XYZ.com?'. Will that ...
3
votes
1answer
97 views

What do you think when these words come up: “populace”, “population”, “people”, the “mass”, the “public” [closed]

When would be the best usage of those words? When do we do/don't use it? What is the message conveyed when we use Populace/Population; People/Mass; Mass/Public? 1.Populace vs Population 2.People vs ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

Does 'droll' have a negative connotation?

I'd taken droll to mean something like drily amusing, but without any implied negativity. But I've often heard people say Very droll! in response to something that they appear to find mildly ...
21
votes
6answers
13k views

What exactly are the differences between “diligent”, “assiduous” and “sedulous”?

From OALD: sedulous (formal) showing great care and effort in your work synonym: diligent assiduous (formal) working very hard and taking great care that everything is done as well as it ...
8
votes
2answers
118 views

Is “pseudo” strictly negative?

I'm used to "pseudo" in academic contexts, where the word/prefix has no connotation at all. It essentially means "not genuine": Pseudorandom Pseudoprime Pseudoephedrine Pseudo-atoll I was about to ...
2
votes
1answer
47 views

Connotations of the word “cohort”

Outside of the scientific sense (cohort study), does the word cohort have positive, negative or neutral connotations? The dictionary defines it as a group of people or single companion and it ...
1
vote
6answers
101 views

positive version of tattle

Is there a word that represents the positive connotation equivalent of the term tattle or tattletale ? What I would be looking for is something like the following: Dan tattled on Ken to Ken's ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the difference between these conditionals?

It's often said that non-native speakers have a poor understanding of the English tenses. I'm not one to disagree, but on the whole I've always thought tenses weren't that hard, until I got to the ...
0
votes
4answers
91 views

Is “fatty” a proper word to use?

The most intuitive word to describe a person rich in fat seems to be fatty. However, I'm not sure whether it's commonly used in a derogatory sense in English. Do I need a more appropriate word ...
3
votes
2answers
81 views

Does the word “midget” have any negative connotations? What would be a non-offensive term today?

Midget is a word that is usually not said because it is offensive to the "Little People". In no way am I trying to offend anyone. But my question is, is it official that the word midget has negative ...
-1
votes
1answer
42 views

What is the difference in meaning of 'monstrousness/monstrous' and 'monstrosity'?

I wondered if someone could tell me what the difference in meaning is of 'monstrousness' and 'monstrosity'? I looked up the definitions and this is what I found: monstrous 1. frightful or ...
3
votes
1answer
48 views

Does using “diminish” instead of “reduce” place an emphasis on the process of reduction?

I have an essay assignment and the prompt looks like this: Without application in reality, the value of scientific findings is greatly diminished. My teacher insists that the use of "diminished" ...
3
votes
2answers
234 views

The phrase “I'm coming” has some strong sexual connotation [closed]

Is the following statement correct? “I'm coming” has some strong sexual connotation There are some guys who propose to avoid this phrase without destination. Usecase: a comment under Facebook ...
0
votes
2answers
46 views

What is the denotation of the word 'population'?

I've seen the word population most commonly used in the context of the magnitude of a community or group e.g. "The population of the United States is 320 million". I have also seen it used to simply ...
1
vote
1answer
54 views

Does “slight future” have negative connotations?

I'm not an native English speaker and I see this word used in so many different contexts. Does "slight" come with negative connotations? It can be used negatively, but does it default to the negative? ...
0
votes
1answer
51 views

Noun meaning “compelling force”

I am looking for a noun that would refer to a compelling force, but I couldn't find a satisfactory one elsewhere. The word I thought of was "compellence," but that has other connotations. The ...
2
votes
1answer
3k views

Connotation of “significant” or “considerable”

I know that they are interchangeable and mean nearly the same. But which of them has a stronger connotation in emphasizing the extent or importance more than the other? Or are they on the same level?
0
votes
3answers
260 views

What is the word for “victim” but with a positive connotation?

What is the word for "victim" but with a positive connotation? For example: Bill Gates was not successful just because he was smart and hardworking, he was also a "victim" of good luck. Obviously, ...
1
vote
2answers
96 views

Difference between hideous, odious and obnoxious [closed]

I wonder about the difference between 'hideous', 'odious' and 'obnoxious' All three of them share the following definition at oxforddictionaries.com Extremely unpleasant While I know that ...
6
votes
3answers
6k views

What does a “man of leisure” do exactly? What is the definition and the connotation?

I watched the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit some weeks ago, and have happily remembered a question I had forgotten from it just now. In this dialogue, Mr. Clennam, a dashing and ...
45
votes
13answers
10k views

Does the term “white lie” have racist connotations?

In his book Overcoming our Racism, psychology professor Derald Wing Sue talks about "unconscious racial oppression" that leads well-meaning White people to say and do things that are harmful to people ...
2
votes
3answers
76 views

“Sensual / likes physical pleasures” without sexual connotation?

Looking for a word or expression to describe someone who's very into physical sensations, liking things varying from climbing, to baths, to working with their hands. "Sensual" is the closest word that ...
5
votes
1answer
713 views

Does “abstruse” carry a positive or negative connotation?

Generally, does the word "abstruse" give positive or negative (or neutral) connotations? For example, "daedal" and "profound" would generally be considered a word with positive connotations, whereas ...
0
votes
2answers
3k views

'Blowing Dixie double four time' and 'He can play the honky tonk like anything' meaning

in Dire Straits "Sultans of Swing" what is the meaning of these two lines: In the first verse: You get a shiver in the dark It's been raining in the park but meantime South of the ...
6
votes
4answers
11k 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
72 views

Negative connotation in unremitting

I am a non-native speaker. Think about a man who is sitting beside his wife in a hospital all along. Would unremitting be unsuitable to describe him? The whole night through, the man sat ...
4
votes
2answers
6k views

Why does “love child” imply “out of wedlock”?

The etymology of love child says it derived as a polite form of "love brat" which was used around the 18th century. My question is when two people are in love and they have a child, could you not ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the difference in meaning between 'nonchalant' and 'insouciant'?

OED defines them as: nonchalant adjective (of a person or manner) feeling or appearing casually calm and relaxed; not displaying anxiety, interest, or enthusiasm insouciant adjective showing ...
-1
votes
2answers
124 views

What connotations does the word “semblance” have?

Is the meaning of the word "semblance" closer to that of "fake" or that of "illusion"? I mean, does it have the negative connotations that "fake" or "counterfeit" have, or is it something that can be ...
15
votes
8answers
6k views

Is the term “hack” more positive or more negative?

What emotional association does the word hack have nowadays in the first place: negative or positive? Is it more for doing something illegally or without permission? Or for doing something in a ...
-1
votes
3answers
60 views

Does “get a diagnosis” imply you think the result will be positive?

If x said to someone I want to get a diagnosis for Parkinson's Does that imply that x already believes they have Parkinson's and want confirmation, or does it just imply that x wants a result no ...
2
votes
3answers
74 views

Conveying the idea of “balancing conflicting interests”

I'm looking for a less wordy way (either single word, phrase or even a metaphor or word picture) to convey the idea of the tension you feel when you have to balance two conflicting interests. Any ...
1
vote
1answer
55 views

Does 'hook up' imply a superficial relationship?

I am a non-native speaker. I would like to express that something happened two years after a character has formed a relationship with a loved one. This is what I wrote: Two years after I hooked ...
2
votes
8answers
935 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 ...
0
votes
3answers
69 views

Is there a general rule that dictates how the connotation of a sentence changes depending on the ordering of its words or clauses?

For instance: "This morning I ate breakfast quickly because the train was late." "I ate breakfast quickly this morning because the train was late." "Because the train was late I ate breakfast ...
3
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

Connotation of dislike in 'Credit where credit is due'

I am a non-native speaker and I wonder whether or not there is a connotation of disagreement in the idiom Credit where credit is due Would one say this only in a situation where a statement was ...
3
votes
4answers
797 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?
7
votes
5answers
4k views

Cultural connotation of American English — some examples?

I am from India and we speak English there as well, albeit not as culturally refined as I see in the US. In India, and perhaps in the UK, English is spoken in a straight and 'as it is' manner. For ...