1

What's the different between the two?

Example:

My mind clouded with murky thoughts.

My mind clouded over with murky thoughts.

(By the way, should it use with or by?)

  • 1
    I think "My mind was clouded by murky thoughts." would be more idiomatic. – Steve Bennett Jul 27 '17 at 7:38
  • Especially with @SteveBennett's modification, the main difference I see is that the first more describes a "steady-state" (the way things are [or were] for a time) whereas the second more implies a transition (from clear to cloudy). – TripeHound Jul 27 '17 at 8:37
  • @SteveBennett: Would "clouded over" (past tense) not imply the act of becoming clouded, as opposed to the state of already being clouded? If the OP is trying to describe a change in his mind's state, I would use the verb instead of the adjective. – Flater Jul 27 '17 at 13:05
  • I'd agree that my version has a sense that the state is already complete, whereas OP's versions could be read as a state of transition - but it's pretty subtle, and I didn't notice that till you pointed it out. – Steve Bennett Jul 28 '17 at 0:58
1

My mind clouded with murky thoughts.
My mind clouded over with murky thoughts.

At face value, they are equivalent. From the OED:

Cloud

(of the sky) become overcast or gloomy.
‘the blue skies clouded over abruptly’

Note how the definition does not mention "over", yet the example does use it. This seems to imply that using "over" is optional, and not required to achieve grammatical correctness.

I would be more inclined to say "clouded over", but I think that's subjective and not relevant as to whether one is more correct than the other.


Edit I am aware that the definition I linked specifically mentions that it pertains to the sky. However, I feel that figurative usage applies here. Especially since the definition includes "gloomy", which is already often used to describe the feeling of sadness, not only the state of the weather.

1

You're running into trouble with metaphors here. When we use language like this we (consciously or not) create a metaphor. Think about what the metaphor means: what is "your mind" in this metaphor?

Let's look at the second example: "My mind clouded over with murky thoughts." Is your mind a sky in this metaphor? A sky "clouds over", meaning clouds come in and block the view of the sun (or stars), for an observer standing on the ground. This metaphor is already confusing. Who is the observer? If your mind is the clouds, who is looking at them? Do they have their own mind, with their own thoughts?

Let's look at the first "My mind clouded with murky thoughts.". The verb "to cloud" is legal so "clouded" can mean the past form of the verb. So, in this metaphor, your mind is more like a container of some kind which has become cloudy. One might think of a fish tank, or a bottle, or some other kind of glass-walled container. This metaphor is better, in that you're saying "My mind is like a cloudy fish tank and it's hard to think properly because I can't see the "contents" very well."

However, there's a language problem with this sentence: this usage of "clouded" isn't very common (except as part of 'clouded over' perhaps). What is much more common is "clouded" as an adjective, to mean "having lots of clouds". If the reader makes this assumption then the sentence is ungrammatical: it looks like it needs a "was", as Steve Benner suggests above, ie "My mind was clouded with murky thoughts."

So, the difference is in the metaphors, I think, but both have their own issues.

  • You seem to take things way more literally than intended. I'm not saying anything you say is particularly wrong, but it does seem to go off topic for the question at hand, drawing conclusions from unrelated aspects. Figurative usage is not always correct down to a microscopic level. The first OED definition for cloud as a verb is "become overcast or gloomy", which is ample justification for its figurative usage and requires no further nitpicking. – Flater Jul 27 '17 at 12:48
  • 1
    @Flater You decide how deep to go with your answers, and I'll decide how deep to go with mine, cheers. – Max Williams Jul 27 '17 at 13:13
  • I agree with you that we approach our answers as we see fit. But the conclusions you draw are relevant to comment on. Your third paragraph doesn't make sense. You argue that "clouded" is a past tense of to cloud (which is not only correct, but exactly the case in the OP's example), and then you continue by talking about cloudy containers, therefore assuming that "clouded" is an adjective. You then shoot your own argument in the foot: "this usage of "clouded" isn't very common (except as part of 'clouded over' perhaps)" – Flater Jul 27 '17 at 13:20
  • To summarize my feedback: your argument is based on literal correctness, but then omits other correct options (e.g. clouded as a verb meaning to become cloudy, rather than clouded as an adjective meaning to be cloudy). You can't both argue a pedantic level of literal correctness, and then omit any other equally correct literal definition, based on how commonly it is used. Correct is correct, regardless of whether it's used often or not. – Flater Jul 27 '17 at 13:22
  • I was saying that "clouded" as a verb is legal, and explained the metaphor it evokes, and then go on to say that it's not a common usage and so might be mistaken for an adjective, which in turn makes the sentence look wrong even if it isn't. – Max Williams Jul 27 '17 at 14:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.