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  1. #1
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default General English Words

    Certain English words are overused by learners of English. Word like: good, bad and happy are usually general ie they donít make speakerís statement specific. In addition they make a text boring. For example instead of saying happy you can say: I was basically content, pleased, overjoyed or ecstatic as if putting them on a scale of varying degrees. What other words in your opinion learners should avoid overusing to make their texts more interesting? Ideas are welcome.

  2. #2
    Fleur de mort Guest

    Default Re: General English Words

    You are right :(

    I believe: nice , great , too much


  3. #3
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: General English Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Death Flower View Post
    You are right :(

    I believe: nice , great , too much


    Thanks Flower. Yes, particularly nice is one of the general words very much in use. Any suggestions about more specific words?

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: General English Words

    At the end of the day, it's basically one of those things.

  5. #5
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: General English Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    At the end of the day, it's basically one of those things.
    I am afraid it is one of the issues which haven't been dealt with systematically. Some Cambridge Certificate books like CAE have realised the problem and do encourage teachers to find out how specific students' vocabulary is. In addition it raises students' awareness to make their texts more interesting. Words like: nice, good, bad, great are consciously avoided and more specific vocabulary is put on a scale of varying degrees like adverbs of frequency. Just imagine you read a text by a writer who uses only general vocabulary I am sure you'll be bored to tears.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: General English Words

    'Sometimes' is a particularly meaningless word to me.

  7. #7
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: General English Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    'Sometimes' is a particularly meaningless word to me.
    Maybe because it is vague and there is no commitment?

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    Default Re: General English Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    'Sometimes' is a particularly meaningless word to me.
    wow! You can't kill off such a useful word!

    How else would one concisely say 'sometimes I really feel like having fish and chips for lunch, but sometimes I just want a salad'.

    or 'On many occasions English teachers can be boring, but sometimes they can be really controversial'.

    or 'Sometimes, Windows will crash for no obvious reason'....sorry....in that case replace the 'sometimes' with 'frequently'!

    'Nice' has its uses too, when one wants to be deliberately patronising for example: eg. "that's nice dear, what is it?'....or if one wants to be deliberately 'middle of the road'...eg. 'Mum! What do you think of my picture?'...."its really nice!".

    'Good' and 'bad' have their important uses too - they are simple words, but can be given different very meanings depending on how they are phrased. In certain parts of England they are absolutely essential to common communication, for instance in the North East it is common practice to use simple negatives, or, depending on locally specific areas (sometimes as small as a single school catchment area), simple double or simple treble negatives. eg. (note: read these carefully, note the exclamation marks, not question marks)

    1. 'That was bad!' means 'I think that was really good'.
    2. 'Was that not bad!' means 'I think that was really good'.
    3. 'Was that good!' means 'I think that was really bad'.
    4. 'Was that not good!' means 'I think that was really bad'.
    Last edited by pedant; 19-Apr-2007 at 00:19.

  9. #9
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: General English Words

    Yes, Pedant of course there is justification for the existence of these general words otherwise they wouldn't exist. The examples you gave show the changes these words are subject to or have already undergone maybe because they are general. But the idea here ist: because some people are not familiar with more specific words they tend to overuse words like: nice, good, bad, happy, great...This means this way they can't express their ideas precisely and are not aware of the varying degrees of intensity of some adverbs or adjectives. This makes their texts boring.
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 19-Apr-2007 at 06:35.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: General English Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim View Post
    Yes, Pedant of course there is justification for the existence of these general words otherwise they wouldn't exist. The examples you gave show the changes these words are subject to or have already undergone maybe because they are general. But the idea here ist: because some people are not familiar with more specific words they tend to overuse words like: nice, good, bad, happy, great...This means this way they can't express their ideas precisely and are not aware of the varying degrees of intensity of some adverbs or adjectives. This makes their texts boring.
    I'm not saying this is right, and please don't take this too seriously, but there might actually be another way of looking at this.

    A lot of people might not have such a wide, or multi-stepped, range of feelings as academics have, so don't find a need to expand their vocabulary any further. For many people, life is pretty boring - maybe good one day, bad another, with not much in between, or on either side. If people needed to express a more subtle range of emotions wouldn't they'd find a way to do it?

    Take Homer Simpson for example....a nice, basically good guy, often in one of only two emotional states: WooHoo! and Doh! ...but with the occasional MMMmmmm. I wonder how many more does he need?

    Who are we to say that such people wrong? We can certainly introduce them to different concepts and suggest to them why they might be good to use, but we can't force people to adopt our own way of thinking. Do we have any right to criticise them, or think any worse of them, if they don't?

    In some ways communicating using such clear cut differences in expression can be more useful than having to try to work out precisely which point someone is at when they are on a scale with 50 steps.

    As for boring, there is a lot of work written by authors using all the words in the dictionary - it is the content which is boring, not how it is conveyed!

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