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  1. #1
    pljames Guest

    Question The misused word--absolute

    I love the English language but I am prejudice and bias against synonyms. Lets take the word...absolute. If the word needs no help before it or after it then why do people say...the truth is absolute or the absolute truth? Wouldnt this be a oxymoron in sentence construction? True synonyms do explain related words but does absolute, if the word has no beginning or end to define it even in a sentence why do people use it as, the absolute truth or vice versa?

    Why cant the truth mean truth. Why do people assume and state that the word...needs help before or after a word which needs no defining? What may be truth to you might not be truth too me. But does that still define the word as a ...absolute...word, nothing before it and nothing after it? Paul

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Hello PLJ

    You could make a distinction between "relative" and "absolute" truth:

    1. It's hot.
    2. Lydia is a very strange girl.

    the truth of each statement is relative to whichever scale of hotness/strangeness you choose to employ.

    3. The moon orbits the earth.
    4. Two plus two = four.

    both statements are absolutely true.

    MrP

  3. #3
    pljames Guest

    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Mr P
    Well said, but again, if the word ....absolute means end(.) how can either forward or backward words help the sentence construction? I whole heartedly agree the period means...the end. But their are words in front of it but not at the end of it. I love the word relate or relative to its core and philosophy of meaning. How can any word...relate...before or after...absolute even the period? I love logic but as Mr Spock states, "thats illogical" as my augument about the word...absolute. But then again maybe philosophically, whats absolute to you may not be absolute to me? Thank you for your quick response. Paul

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    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Hello PLJ

    I'd agree that one speaker may regard as relative a truth that another speaker regards as absolute. But perhaps there are some truths that all speakers would regard as absolute truths, e.g. tautologies ("all points on the surface of a sphere are an equal distance from its centre", "2+2=4", etc.).

    I have to admit, I don't quite follow your point about the "end-ness" of "absolute" sorry!

    MrP

  5. #5
    pljames Guest

    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Thank you Mr P. I am also into philosophy and every once in a while I go left. I love and adore the English language, the part I understand anyway. Absolute...means the end. Infinity mean that which has ...no end. The only way I can understand words like absolute and infinity is by the word...relative. I was wrong , their is no endless to the word ...absolute, it is the end.

    I am now having problems with the word...logic, but that is another story. Thanks for listening. Paul

  6. #6
    ajarnbarryd is offline Newbie
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    Thumbs up Re: The misued word....absolute

    I absolutely agree with the spirit of both comments, though I also confess not to absolutely follow one of the string of arguments.

    Although I do "see" some absolutes, I confess not to agree with every example of an absolute I come across. Plus, I could suggest a whole list of "absolutes" and not see how someone could argue against them following the same logic they use to create their own "grammatical" lists.

    For example, "expensive." No one ever complains when someone says "very expensive." But I could argue, Either it's expensive or it isn't. Without a comparison or a specific price listing, how can someone say this if you follow the "absolute" rule. I can say this one is more expensive than that one (relativity). But either something is expensive or it isn't, isn't it? I see no difference with that than saying "absolute truth," following the argument you guys made so well.

    We're not robots...sometimes we use words for emphasis. I say that if it conveys meaning then it's absolutely fine. I would also absolutely agree that too many adverbs and adjectives, of absolutely any kind, can be mind-numbing as well.

    I could also argue that 2 plus 2 is not always 4. What if the 2 stands for a pair of -1s. Then 2+2 is not 4. In that case, it would be -4. In algebra I can make the symbol X stand for anything I want, and 2 is just a symbol. And I could also argue that 10+6=4. If it's 10 oclock and six hours pass, then it's 4 o'clock. But what time is it on Mars? Anyway, I digress. I certainly don't want to adhere to the school of "overthought" that asks, "'it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.'"

    And what about death? Why can't someone be almost dead? I completely understand what that modification means. Yes, barely alive is better grammatically I suppose, but which is more dramatic? If I'm a writer, I want to convey meaning, not prove I studied grammar in college. Of course, I also want to avoid such cliches as I used for this example.

    My real point is: some people treat "grammar" as an abolute and don't realize that "English" is an ever-evolving and very adaptable language. Just read some original Shakespeare and you'll see what I mean. I'm all for a set of consistent rules (but even Journalism and English majors can't agree on every grammar point, or England and the U.S. or Singapore for that matter.) Consistency is a good thing but it shouldn't become a dogma or a false badge of superiority. Try reading some prose written by former slaves, just as one minute example, and you'll see you're not as smart as you think you are. (universal you)
    Last edited by ajarnbarryd; 15-Oct-2007 at 07:39.

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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    As an aside, I believe the example given involving truth is more a matter of philosophy, and the nature of truth itself than the nature of the grammer that goes with it.

  8. #8
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    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Quote Originally Posted by pljames View Post
    I love the English language but I am prejudiced and biased against synonyms. Let's take the word absolute. If the word needs no help before it or after it then why do people say...the truth is absolute or the absolute truth? Wouldn't this be an oxymoron in sentence construction? True synonyms do explain related words, but does absolute, if the word has no beginning or end to define it even in a sentence why do people use it as, the absolute truth or vice versa?

    Why can't the truth mean truth? Why do people assume and state that the word...needs help before or after a word which needs no defining? What may be truth to you might not be truth to me.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    Quote Originally Posted by pljames View Post
    Mr P
    But there are words in front of it but not at the end of it. ... But then again maybe philosophically, what's absolute to you might not be absolute to me.

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    Default Re: The misued word....absolute

    It's just an intensifier because sometimes truth to one is not quite the same to another.

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