Are you beautiful or lovely-the difference

The definitions I am using from the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary come from a blog I subscribe to by CS Perryess. On should give credit where credit is due. He loves words and old dictionaries. These definitions are great for writers because writers need to be specific; the right word for the right reason.

I will compare words from the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary that Perryess cited to my 2000 American Heritage Dictionary.

Beautiful: 59 Webster says, “applied to that which gives the highest degree of pleasure to the senses or to the mind and suggests to the object of delight one’s conception of an ideal.” My 2000 Heritage says, “having beauty.” I think Webster wins here, though the Heritage definition of ‘beauty’ closely resembles the 59 Webster definition of ‘beautiful,’, but not with the succinct clarity of Webster.

Lovely: 59 Webster says, “applies to that which delights by inspiring affection or warm admiration.” My 2000 Heritage says, “Having pleasing or attractive qualities; beautiful.” Once again Webster has a more beautiful definition.

I pause here to say that I have the American Heritage Dictionary because-and I forget who-recommended this dictionary for writers. I am having second thoughts.

Moving on to . . .

Pretty: “implies a dainty, delicate or graceful quality in that which pleases and carries connotations of femininity or diminutiveness.” My 2000 heritage says, “Delightfully pretty or dainty.” Webster now up 3-0.

Comely: “applies to persons only and suggests a wholesome attractiveness of form and features rather than a high degree of beauty.” My Heritage says, “Pleasing in appearance; attractive.” I must say here is where Heritage, to be blunt, really sucks. Their definition is generic, non-specific, lacking any ‘definition’ in the definition. It is is blah. 4-0.

Fair: “suggests beauty that is fresh, bright or flawless and, when applied to persons, is used especially of complexion and features.” My Heritage says, “beautiful; lovely.”  Really? That’s it. That’s all you’ve got? Webster’s 5-0.

Yuck to American Heritage. I looked up ‘yuck’ in my Heritage Dictionary. It says, ” Used to express rejection or strong disgust.” Well they got one right.

What I find in the 59 Webster’s is clarity in language, a defined definition. What I find in my 200 Heritage is blandness, unimaginative language, lack of clarity.

I used my Heritage from time to time on my e-novels on Amazon.

But I will be buying a new dictionary today.

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Defining The English Language through slang, jargon, and “The Arrival”

In the preface to Dictionary of American Slang, Stuart Flexner defines different aspects of the English language. I quote his definitions along with my American Heritage Dictionary (AHD).

  1. Slang, ” body of words or expressions frequently used by or intelligible to a rather large portion of the general American public, but not accepted as good, formal usage by the majority.”

No offense to Mr. Flexner, but that is a stiff, academic definition. My American heritage Dictionary is more fun. ” a vocabulary of casual or playful, often short-lived expressions, especially for humor, irreverence, or striking effect.”

I can wrap myself around that definition. The Flexner definition comes from a 1967 copyright copy of the slang dictionary. Perhaps words become more clearly defined over time, an evolution of meaning if you will.

     2. Colloquialisms, as defined by Flexner, “familiar words and idioms used in informal speech and writing, but not considered explicit or formal enough for polite conversation or business correspondence.” He adds, “Unlike slang, however, colloquialisms, are used and understood by everyone in America.” He cites an example of “Friend, you talk plain and hit the nail right on the head,” as a colloquialism.

I always wince at ‘polite conversation’ as the phrase makes me think of boring conversation; after all, polite indicates being nice and not offending anyone, and what fun is that. The AHD defines it as simply, “informal speech and writing.” 

3. Dialects, again by Flexner, “words, idioms, pronunciations, and speech habits, peculiar to specific geographical locations.” AHD says ” A regional variety of a language.” Essentially the same definition, just with fewer words. Though, in this case, I like Flexner.

     4. Cant, jargon, and argot, are “words and expressions peculiar to specific segments of the population,” according to Flexner, and that sounds like his definition of  colloquialisms, but going deeper, cant is ” idioms . . . understood only by members of a specific occupation, trade, or profession.” Jargon is “technical, or even secret vocabulary of such a sub group; jargon is ‘shop talk.’  I plead stupidity as I see no difference, only different words in defining terms. Argot is ” both cant and jargon of any professional criminal group.”

AHD defines cant, much the same way as Flexner, but as secondary usage, the primary usage being ‘Insincere speech full of platitudes or pious expressions.” Is this a case of a word perhaps evolving into a different type of meaning? A generation or culture can change the meaning of words over time. Consider the word ‘gay’ that has gone from a meaning of gaiety and fun to sexual preference.

AHD then says of jargon, “Nonsensical or incoherent talk,” as the primary definition, once again using Flexners definition as secondary. As for ‘argot’, they are in agreement.

What does it all mean?

It means words are something we understand, though we may not always be in agreement with meanings. There are nuances, slight changes, and evolving language over time, even interpretation. If we are not in agreement it leads to miscommunication, and on a larger level, perhaps arguments, even wars. Think of the difficulty of language in the movie The Arrival, not just with the aliens, but with all the countries trying to understand each other as well as the aliens. Understanding words and meanings are important-and fun to study, if you love language.

Language is a virus from outer space- William S. Burroughs.

Here are my viruses e-books on Amazon

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CAN YOU FETCH A FETCHING

This post was posted from a previous incarnation of my writing blog.

Of late, since I seem to have nothing better to do, I became immersed  in the odd relationship between fetch and fetching.

I associate the word ‘fetch’ with dogs. When playing catch with a dog and a stick or ball is thrown the owner yells, “Go fetch!” I have heard this phrase many times, though in truth the dog knows to go fetch; he or she does not have to be told. They love to fetch.

I am also aware that ‘fetch’ can imply what something costs, though this is a somewhat archaic usage. I have not heard, “It fetched a good price” in a long time. So let us stick to ‘fetch’ defined as retrieving, to grab, seize, catch, and so on.

Okay, now we come to the word fetching. It means charming, enchanting, alluring, captivating, and is most used in describing a woman, or at least it once was, as in “She has a fetching appearance.” It was once a way of saying, “Man she’s hot!” And that phrase once meant something else. But anyway, how do we get from a dog fetching to a comely woman? How do we associate a dog with a cute woman? 

I know chauvinistic men would like a woman to fetch them a beer on demand, but that is not me. I can fetch my own thank you.

Was there something sinister behind the similarity of the two words, some wordsmith conspiracy to layer an insult to women, that they were dogs?  I had to uncover the truth.

I went to a well known establishment that provides  haircuts, or styling if you will, to men; the establishment, a national one that has fetching young ladies that cut your hair, a cut that fetch’s a good price mind you. I posed the question to the young woman cutting my hair about fetch and fetching. Leave it to a woman to figure it out.

She cut to the heart of the matter with the quickness of the snip of a scissor. “Fetch means the woman is worth fetching.”

I had to laugh, though I felt like a dog for thinking there was some conspiracy. I must refrain from saying a terrible pun like offering a beautiful diamond ring will fetch the woman.  That would be improper. Because you see, it is the woman tossing the ball or stick and the man, the dog that he is, will fetch it. And that is because the woman is so fetching the man can not resist.

If you would like to fetch on of my e-books, you can grab one here.

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