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    #1

    Question Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    The translations for the captioned (can I use this word here?) adjectives are similar and they all refer to something that causes sympathy; make your heart go out to something. However, interestingly, I've come across quite many examples in which their use is rather sarcastic:

    You are pathetic [in the context of 'you're hopeless']
    That wretched assignment [= that annoying assignment]

    So,
    1) Is this a more common use of these adjectives in English? Has the original meaning bleached?

    2) Is it possible to say

    Oh, that boy is pitiable/pathetic/wretched. [to describe I feel sorry for that boy as he has no food to eat...]

    Very Many Thanks!

  1. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedwonny View Post
    The translations for the captioned (can I use this word here?) adjectives are similar and they all refer to something that causes sympathy; make your heart go out to something. However, interestingly, I've come across quite many examples in which their use is rather sarcastic:

    You are pathetic [in the context of 'you're hopeless']
    That wretched assignment [= that annoying assignment]

    So,
    1) Is this a more common use of these adjectives in English? Has the original meaning bleached?

    2) Is it possible to say

    Oh, that boy is pitiable/pathetic/wretched. [to describe I feel sorry for that boy as he has no food to eat...]

    Very Many Thanks!
    Have a look here: pathetic adjective (UNSUCCESSFUL) - definition in British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionary Online
    And here: wretched adjective - definition in British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionary Online

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    #3

    Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedwonny View Post
    adjectives are similar and they all refer to something that causes sympathy; make your heart go out to something. However, interestingly, I've come across quite many examples in which their use is rather sarcastic:
    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) These words confuse me, too. I have never found a really good explanation.

    (2) Maybe there is no "good" explanation, for they are often interchangeable.

    (3) Here are two dictionary definitions that have given me a little help:

    (a) Pitiable describes something that is brought directly before the senses.

    For example: "A pitiable condition." [MY NOTE: I guess seeing a boy who is

    starving is "brought directly before the senses."]

    (b) Pathetic and pitiful refer to what is rendered (made) helpless through (because of)

    misfortune. [MY NOTE: Those words also seem to describe the situation of a starving

    boy.]

    (i) You are 100% correct. Sometimes those words are used to express contempt

    (when you do NOT respect someone/something) because of ineptitude (that person or

    thing does NOT know how to do something). [MY NOTE: Let's say that Mr. X is an

    English teacher, but his principal/headmaster orders him to teach algebra. He knows

    absolutely nothing about algebra. He reads the book each night before class the next

    day. Some of his students know more algebra than he does! The students have no

    respect for him and laugh at him (behind his back). We could describe him or his

    situation as pathetic/pitiful.]

    (4) That's all the "help" that I can offer. Hopefully, other posters will contribute their

    ideas. I shall now end this pathetic/pitiful post.

    Sources: Funk & Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1956) / The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969).

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    #4

    Question Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    Thanks, of course I've taken a look at different dictionaries before writing this post.

    Even after consulting these dictionaries, I can't find the answer to my question:

    Can I say: "that boy is pitiable/pathetic/wretched." [to describe I feel sorry for that boy as he has no food to eat...]

    Thanks a million!

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    #5

    Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    [QUOTE=Tedwonny;843978

    Can I say: "that boy is pitiable/pathetic/wretched." [to describe I feel sorry for that boy as he has no food to eat...]

    /QUOTE]


    I want to know, too. Hopefully, someone will soon answer.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedwonny View Post
    Thanks, of course I've taken a look at different dictionaries before writing this post.

    Even after consulting these dictionaries, I can't find the answer to my question:

    Can I say: "that boy is pitiable/pathetic/wretched." [to describe I feel sorry for that boy as he has no food to eat...]

    Thanks a million!
    I wouldn't use "pathetic" or "wretched" in that context. "pitiable" seems more acceptable to me, but I can't imagine using it myself.

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    #7

    Re: Pitiable/Pathetic/Wretched

    (Not a Teacher)

    I agree with bhaisahab. "Pitiable" could work work in your sentence, but I wouldn't say that. I'd try to express it differently, for instance:

    "That boy lives in such wretched/pitiable/pitiful/deplorable conditions."

    This conveys your sympathetic feelings towards the boy without risking coming across as condescending.

    When you apply these terms to a person, they tend to sound negative.

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