(This is coming from a discussion over at ELL, but the specific nuance below fits here I think).

Consider two statements about a dog:

  1. The dog has brown fur
  2. The dog has aesthetic appeal

and two alternate formulations:

  1. The dog's fur is brown
  2. The dog's appeal is aesthetic

Is it simply idiom, or is there something technical about the role of "aesthetic" in the underlying proposition that makes 4 rarely if ever used?

  • The alternate formulations are not identical in meaning with the originals. #1 means that some of the dog's teeth are sharp; #3 means they all are. If we substitute, let us say, a weapon for the dog in #2 and #4, this difference becomes more pronounced. The appeal of a weapon to a potential purchaser may be partly aesthetic but partly a matter of efficacy. If so, that rules out #4 as inaccurate. If we in turn substitute a sculpture, as something likely to have only aesthetic appeal, #4 ceases to require the adjective at all: the sculpture would merely be said to be appealing. – Brian Donovan Feb 22 '15 at 18:26
  • Changed to avoid that irrelevant difference. – tkp Feb 22 '15 at 18:47
  • I don't find Sentence 4 that unusual. The dog's appeal is aesthetic; i.e. we like the way it looks. Money's appeal is practical; i.e. we'd like it whether it's a pretty hundred dollar bill or an ugly one. – Steven Littman Feb 22 '15 at 20:46
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    @John Lawler - the difference I take from the two alternatives is, in "The dog has aesthetic appeal" the appeal of the dog is not exclusively aesthetic; whereas in, "The dog's appeal is aesthetic" the dog's appeal is exclusively aesthetic. Is this semantically correct/incorrect? – user98990 Feb 23 '15 at 0:24
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    Overall, regardless of the fact that there's a difference, what I was hoping for was either a technical explanation -- e.g. "Well it's because 'aesthetic' in this context is acting as proto-reflexive third-declension mono-fartic adjectoid" -- or a simple "cuz that's the idiom dude" – tkp Feb 23 '15 at 0:36

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