Is there any difference between 'baffling' and 'perplexing'? I'm especially interested in connotative aspect. Thanks in advance!
To me, 'perplexing' is something that describes a situation for Sherlock Holmes, i.e., something that a smart person can figure out; while 'baffling' is nearly impossible to understand, nevermind figure out, regardless of the intelligence of the addressee, i.e. to whom it is either perplexing or baffling.
Perplexing is more at 'involved' and 'complex'. From the Latin plectere "to twine, braid, fold". 1
Baffling was used by 18c. sailor's to describe winds that blow variously and make headway difficult. To say that something is baffling is to imply that there is no clear direction to look for a solution. 2
When you say you're perplexed, there is less emotion than if you say you're baffled. Thus, if you are writing emails and letters where a neutral tone is helpful, perplexed would be a better choice than baffled. Baffled has a higher histrionic tone.
Same thing with baffling and perplexing. Perplexing gives you a bit more emotional detachment, which can be helpful.
On the other hand, in casual conversation with supportive allies, you can use baffling as much as you like.
I think that baffled means that you didn't saw something coming and it is mostly found when people are lying or surprised. Like take for instance:
When you are lying or trying to hide something from yourself it indicates that you're baffled like "I'm pretty sure Lucy ate the last cookie" and Lucy starts to feel baffled because that is the truth that she is keeping for herself. She did eat the last cookie. And she's like, "Well, I, er, it definitely wasn't me.
The surprise is when :
"Amanda, you won the state contest for your report!" And Amanda stays shocked and baffled to hear the news.
"Wait...me? But, I, how in the? I was the one to win?!?" This shows her no words, her amazement, and shock.