Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    ian2 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    431
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default connotation of the word "soften"

    The Becker-Shore film is a beautiful fifteen minutes, silent save for Satie’s plangent “Gymnopédie No. 1” (not nearly the cliché that it later became), with slow, floating pans of Atget’s photographs of empty Paris streets and bridges and parks. It is lovely and sad enough to soften the heart of any lover of Paris.

    Soften in what sense? Compassionate? Does "soft" induce compassion universally across cultures?

  2. #2
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    812
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    I think it suggests that the film is tender and moving and perhaps presents a little romaticism which will ignite the imaginations and feelings of people who love Paris.

    To me, it also suggests that the film is not a documentry. It's not a banal, everyday portrait of Paris as Parisians experience it. It's an artistic representation of the city, designed to create a certain atmosphere and tone.

    I'm not a teacher.

  3. #3
    ian2 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    431
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    Quote Originally Posted by colloquium View Post
    I think it suggests that the film is tender and moving and perhaps presents a little romaticism which will ignite the imaginations and feelings of people who love Paris.

    To me, it also suggests that the film is not a documentry. It's not a banal, everyday portrait of Paris as Parisians experience it. It's an artistic representation of the city, designed to create a certain atmosphere and tone.

    I'm not a teacher.
    I think your answer makes a lot of sense. Let me give you some more background so that you know where I am coming from. When someone's heart becomes soft in Chinese, it often indicates that the person feels harder to do something that may hurt another person, for example, when you have to punish someone, but later on your heart becomes softened and can't do that harmful thing to that person. I raise this question to find whether there is a universal aspect of "soften the heart" metaphor. I feel there is such a universality to a great extent, for example, in both English and Chinese, the connotations are not in contradiction, pointing to the same direction of human feelings, but it seems after fine tuning "soften the heart", you do see the difference. That is why I want to see a crystal clear picture of "Soften the heart" phrase in English. Thanks.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,425
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    You express yourself so eloquently.
    Life hardens us, so we do not break down in tears every time we hear some news on television -"Hundreds die in earthquake". Call it that we 'harden our heart' or develop a 'thick skin', it means that our emotions are not as exposed and as vulnerable to outside influences. So, when our heart 'softens', it means that our usual iron protection from feeling so deeply has 'melted', something has penetrated our thick skin, we really do feel the emotion that goes with 'hundreds die' rather than dispassionately seeing it as 'that's what's going on in China. And what's the weather like tomorrow?"

    This can also happen with regard to something very specific, or to a particular person. If you give money to a crippled beggar, and then find out he is not only not crippled, but making quite a lot of money by exploiting the compassion of passers-by, you may vow never to give to another beggar - your heart has hardened. This then becomes your reaction when seeing any beggar...until something about a person, something about the situation, something you are told, changes your understanding, and you do feel for the person: your heart 'softens'.
    Last edited by David L.; 29-Jun-2008 at 19:42.

  5. #5
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    22,674
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    You express yourself so eloquently.
    Life hardens us, so we do not break down in tears every time we hear some news on television -"Hundreds die in earthquake". Call it that we 'harden our heart' or develop a 'thick skin', it means that our emotions are not as exposed and as vulnerable to outside influences. So, when our heart 'softens', it means that our usual iron protection from feeling so deeply has 'melted', something has penetrated our thick skin, we really do feel the emotion that goes with 'hundreds die' rather than dispassionately seeing it as 'that's what's going on in China. And what's the weather like tomorrow?"
    Beautiful explanation!

  6. #6
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    812
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    You express yourself so eloquently.
    Life hardens us, so we do not break down in tears every time we hear some news on television -"Hundreds die in earthquake". Call it that we 'harden our heart' or develop a 'thick skin', it means that our emotions are not as exposed and as vulnerable to outside influences. So, when our heart 'softens', it means that our usual iron protection from feeling so deeply has 'melted', something has penetrated our thick skin, we really do feel the emotion that goes with 'hundreds die' rather than dispassionately seeing it as 'that's what's going on in China. And what's the weather like tomorrow?"

    This can also happen with regard to something very specific, or to a particular person. If you give money to a crippled beggar, and then find out he is not only not crippled, but making quite a lot of money by exploiting the compassion of passers-by, you may vow never to give to another beggar - your heart has hardened. This then becomes your reaction when seeing any beggar...until something about a person, something about the situation, something you are told, changes your understanding, and you do feel for the person: your heart 'softens'.
    I also think this is a very good explanation.

    But I don't think the original text is suggesting that the film will create a complete change of heart (e.g. from hardhearted to compassionate). It seems more to be suggesting that if you are already fond of Paris, this film will affirm those feelings and appeal to your sensibilities.

    However this is merely my interpretation.

    With regards to your explanation Ian, I think there definately are similarities in the way the heart is used symbolically to represent love and compassion in both English and Chinese.

    It is rather curious that the heart - the body's pump - has always had such a significance. The brain seems like a better organ for the job!

  7. #7
    ian2 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    431
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    Quote Originally Posted by colloquium View Post
    I also think this is a very good explanation.

    But I don't think the original text is suggesting that the film will create a complete change of heart (e.g. from hardhearted to compassionate). It seems more to be suggesting that if you are already fond of Paris, this film will affirm those feelings and appeal to your sensibilities.

    However this is merely my interpretation.

    With regards to your explanation Ian, I think there definately are similarities in the way the heart is used symbolically to represent love and compassion in both English and Chinese.

    It is rather curious that the heart - the body's pump - has always had such a significance. The brain seems like a better organ for the job!
    I like you to raise the "brain" issue.

    By the way, the soft/hard metpahor reminds me of the new cognitive linguistic study of metaphor which advocates that linguistic metaphors are basically grounded in or motivated by human physical experience. We do react in the same way when it comes to soft or hard objects.

  8. #8
    ian2 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    431
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: connotation of the word "soften"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    You express yourself so eloquently.
    Life hardens us, so we do not break down in tears every time we hear some news on television -"Hundreds die in earthquake". Call it that we 'harden our heart' or develop a 'thick skin', it means that our emotions are not as exposed and as vulnerable to outside influences. So, when our heart 'softens', it means that our usual iron protection from feeling so deeply has 'melted', something has penetrated our thick skin, we really do feel the emotion that goes with 'hundreds die' rather than dispassionately seeing it as 'that's what's going on in China. And what's the weather like tomorrow?"

    This can also happen with regard to something very specific, or to a particular person. If you give money to a crippled beggar, and then find out he is not only not crippled, but making quite a lot of money by exploiting the compassion of passers-by, you may vow never to give to another beggar - your heart has hardened. This then becomes your reaction when seeing any beggar...until something about a person, something about the situation, something you are told, changes your understanding, and you do feel for the person: your heart 'softens'.
    Wow, I am amazed by the explanation. Thanks again David.

Similar Threads

  1. The meaning with no word . . .
    By ScaryEders in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 06-May-2009, 07:15
  2. the word challenge
    By azkad in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 20-Feb-2008, 09:37
  3. about the word of only
    By sariputra in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 02-Jun-2005, 13:10
  4. Word Checker 1 - The Dolch basic word list
    By Tdol in forum UsingEnglish.com Content
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 19-Apr-2004, 15:30
  5. Questions about Inversions - Inverted Word Order
    By Anonymous in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 31-May-2003, 22:43

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •