In order to ask the questio0n, I need to explain the context:


I was in discussion with a friend(Annie), talking about one of our friends, James.

He was filming a video documentary for his PhD thesis about Chinese music. Unfortunately, we lost him about 3 years ago due to stroke.

During the discussion, I mentioned a concept in Chinese:时代相关性, which means the documentary has its relevance to today's world. In another words, the documentary makes perfect sense in the current world, but may not be relevant after 2 decades or whatever the time could be.

I searched online and found 2 words:

Relevance and Correlation

So here is my question:

In this context, which one fits the best and why?

  • 1
    "Correlation" means something entirely different. – Hot Licks Mar 27 '20 at 23:50
  • @HotLicks could you elaborate it please? – Franva Mar 28 '20 at 0:08

"Correlation" is a scientific-sounding word that implies a relationship between two different things. Weight is correlated to height because taller people tend to be heavier. It is not suited to this example.

"Relevant" is better, but wouldn't get me excited about your friend's work. It implies that your friend's work fits into the modern world, and might be used to think about the modern world:

"All these things are the same today as they were in Shakespeare's time, and because of that, his stories are still very relevant to us."

If your friend really understood the modern world

his finger was on the pulse of the modern world

If your friend's work specifically fit an era

His PhD perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 2010s China

where Zeitgeist means "spirit of a generation or a period of time".

  • 1
    Beautiful explanation~! Like the quotes in your answer :) Zeitgeist is too big in this context I guess. So should I use : Times Relevant or Time Relevant? – Franva Mar 28 '20 at 2:16

Use of relevance or correlation in this sentence depends on intended meaning of the relationship between the "documentary" and "today's world."

Relevance: the degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening or being talked about

Correlation: a connection or relationship between two or more facts, numbers, etc.

Since there is a question as to whether a documentary would be of value over time, its "relevance" is the point. To use "correlation" in this context would mean more of a comparison than a value. Could one ponder whether a documentary of Chinese music has a correlation to modern times? Perhaps, but that would seem to miss the intended meaning of your example.

  • I haven't read his paper, so I cannot comment on it. But I do agree Relevance fits better. thanks for your help – Franva Mar 28 '20 at 2:17

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