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    #1

    symbol v. emblem

    Hello everybody,

    I am preparing for CPE and while practising some previous tests I came across the following sentence in a multiple-choice task:

    [Air conditioning] has become [...] a potent symbol/emblem of the ability of humanity to control the climate

    Out of the 4 possible answers I was on the fence between symbol and emblem.
    The correct solution is symbol.

    Now, since I got this answer wrong, I would like to figure out the subtle difference in meaning (and, perhaps most importantly, in usage) between emblem and symbol but dictionaries seem to be of little avail for this purpose. Can someone help me out with this?

    Thank you in advance

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    #2

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    Quote Originally Posted by Englishlanguage View Post
    Hello everybody,

    I am preparing for CPE and while practising some previous tests I came across the following sentence in a multiple-choice task:

    [Air conditioning] has become [...] a potent symbol/emblem of the ability of humanity to control the climate

    Out of the 4 possible answers I was on the fence between symbol and emblem.
    The correct solution is symbol.

    Now, since I got this answer wrong, I would like to figure out the subtle difference in meaning (and, perhaps most importantly, in usage) between emblem and symbol but dictionaries seem to be of little avail for this purpose. Can someone help me out with this?

    Thank you in advance
    In a physical sense, I would say that there is little difference between a symbol and an emblem. However, the word "symbol" is regularly used in a more metaphorical sense. That's why we call something "symbolic" when we're not necessarily talking about a tangible object.

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    #3

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    "Symbol": something visible that by association or convention represents something else that is invisible; "the eagle is a symbol of the United States".

    "Emblem" : Something visible representing an abstract idea.

    They appear to be identical. However, an emblem is really something that has specifically been designed to symbolise something. But a symbol may occur by accident.

    So there IS a subtle difference.

    Now "air conditioning" represents the ability of humanity to control the climate. I guess you could say that it "symbolises the ability of humanity to control the climate".

    However, air conditioning (either as a concept or as a physical piece of equipment) is not an "emblem". An emblem is really something that has specifically been designed to symbolise something. Air conditioning does not fall into that category.


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    #4

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    Quote Originally Posted by Koronas View Post
    "Symbol": something visible that by association or convention represents something else that is invisible; "the eagle is a symbol of the United States".

    "Emblem" : Something visible representing an abstract idea.

    They appear to be identical. However, an emblem is really something that has specifically been designed to symbolise something. But a symbol may occur by accident.

    So there IS a subtle difference.

    Now "air conditioning" represents the ability of humanity to control the climate. I guess you could say that it "symbolises the ability of humanity to control the climate".

    However, air conditioning (either as a concept or as a physical piece of equipment) is not an "emblem". An emblem is really something that has specifically been designed to symbolise something. Air conditioning does not fall into that category.
    Ok, I think I can perceive the difference now, even if it is really subtle.
    Could you please provide some other examples of emblems and symbols?

    Can you say kangaroos are the symbol of Australia?
    And would the crescent moon and the star which appear in the flag of Turkey be a national emblem?

    Thank you

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    #5

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    You might be better off with saying that kangaroos are a symbol of Australia as they are not the only possibility- for instance, koala bears, which have been used frequently in advertising, have a claim too, etc, etc.

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    #6

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    Quote Originally Posted by Koronas View Post
    Now "air conditioning" represents the ability of humanity to control the climate. I guess you could say that it "symbolises the ability of humanity to control the climate".
    I wouldn't say that the air-conditioning represents the ability of humanity to control the climate.

    All those bloody apparatus help the climate getting worse and worse only, day by day, by way of heating the atmosphere outside the particular rooms which they cool down.

    And also the air conditioning makes the life shorter.

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    #7

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    I have to agree with your sentiments. However, we were discussing the use of English, not the use of air conditioning.


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    #8

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    Ok. Thanks to everybody. I think I really have it clear now.

    Sometimes I am under the impression I focus on some nuance aspects of the language that most native speakers wouldn't be able to grasp.
    Symbol and emblem exist in my own language as well and they have the same Latin and Greek origin as the English terms (although of course their meaning and usage may have, and probably has, changed over time). But I think I would not be able to explain the difference in usage between the two Italian words, provided there is any.
    Every day I become more and more aware that some English certificates require (at least for very high marks) a level of proficiency in the language comparable to that of a learned, well-educated native speaker, which is quite discouraging for learners aspiring to get those certificates.

    Anyway, thanks once again. I will be back to this forum for any future doubts I may enounter along my path towards my English certificate.

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    #9

    Re: symbol v. emblem

    Quote Originally Posted by Koronas View Post
    I have to agree with your sentiments. However, we were discussing the use of English, not the use of air conditioning.
    Is it maybe possible to say

    ..not the use of the air conditioners.

    ..not the either possibilities or aspects of the air conditioning.

    .. not the air conditioning possibilities.

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