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    #1

    Strength of synonyms

    Synonyms are different words that have the same meaning. As I've noticed though, in many cases there are certain synonyms that seem to be stronger than others, another words, some synonyms tend to for some reason or another meet the definition better. An example would be the word "stomach" and the word "tummy." Stomach and tummy are synonyms, they both mean the same thing in that they both define the organ in which food is digested. Of the two words, stomach seems to be stronger. The word stomach seems to meet the definition better than the word tummy.

    Another example would be the words man, guy, dude, and fellow. They all mean the same thing and yet the word "male" seems to be stronger than all those words in meeting the definition.

    So is it true that some synonyms are stronger than others in meeting the definition? It seems that way.

  2. teechar's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Quote Originally Posted by Photon Guy View Post
    Synonyms are different words that can have the same meaning. As I've noticed, though, in many cases, there are certain synonyms that seem to be stronger than others. another In other words, some synonyms tend to, for some reason or another, meet fit the definition better. An example would be the word "stomach" and the word "tummy." "Stomach" and "tummy" are synonyms; they both mean the same thing in that they both define the organ in which food is digested. Of the two words, "stomach" seems to be stronger. The word "stomach" seems to meet the definition better than the word "tummy."

    Another example would be the words "man", "guy", "dude", and "fellow". They all mean the same thing, and yet, the word "male" seems to be stronger than all those other words in meeting the definition.

    So is it true that some synonyms are stronger than others in meeting the definition? It seems that way.
    I don't know why you've chosen strength as the attribute to examine here.

    You also need to consider context to decided which word is more appropriate to use. For example, I can't imagine a judge asking a defendant in court "Did you shoot that dude in the tummy?" By the same token, I think, e.g., a mother is more likely to say to her child "That man has a very big tummy" instead of "That male has an extraordinarily voluminous stomach."

    Words can have meanings that overlap (to varying extents), but context is often a factor in considering which alternative we decide to use.

  3. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Right. It's very rare for two words to mean exactly the same thing, and those that do are never used in exactly the same way. As Teechar says, it's not just about how strongly you want to say something. It's also about what you mean and whom you're saying it to.

    It's mainly a matter of listening to English to learn its subtleties. For instance, male isn't stronger than the other words you listed. As Teechar says, the strongest choice is a matter of context:

    - I tried to sell her all of the puppies, but she only wanted the males.
    - If you're looking for fun, I'm your guy.
    - Dude, what did you do to my bike?
    - Which way did you see the man running?
    - He was a quick wit and a trustworthy fellow.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 02-Mar-2017 at 13:22.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #4

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Right. It's very rare for two words to mean exactly the same thing, and those that do are never used in exactly the same way. As Teechar says, it's not just about how strongly you want to say something. It's also about what you mean and whom you're saying it to.

    It's mainly a matter of listening to English to learn its subtleties. For instance, male isn't stronger than the other words you listed. As Teechar says, the strongest choice is a matter of context:

    - I tried to sell her all of the puppies, but she only wanted the males.
    - If you're looking for fun, I'm your guy.
    - Dude, what did you do to my bike?
    - Which way did you see the man running?
    - He was a quick wit and a trustworthy fellow.
    I get what you're saying and you're right that words usually don't mean exactly the same thing although in rare instances they do, take for instance the word "soda" and the word "pop." I will point out this however. The word, "male" is stronger than all those other words that define the gender in that it can meet the definition in all instances which the other words can't. For instance, in the five examples given above you can use male in all of them to describe the subject of the sentence. It might not be the most appropriate word to use in all of the sentences but it at least meets the definition.

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    #5

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Quote Originally Posted by Photon Guy View Post
    The word, "male" is stronger than all those other words that define the gender in that it can meet the definition in all instances which the other words can't.
    You've defined "stronger" to mean more flexible or perhaps broader. I'd stick with precise terms that readers will understand without needing additional explanations.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. Newbie
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    #6

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    You've defined "stronger" to mean more flexible or perhaps broader. I'd stick with precise terms that readers will understand without needing additional explanations.
    OK broader would be a better way to describe it. The words boy and man are both interchangeable with the word male but they're not interchangeable with each other.

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    #7

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    "Boy" would only be interchangeable with "male" in a sentence where "boy" is the correct term.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #8

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Quote Originally Posted by Photon Guy View Post
    The words "boy" and "man" are both interchangeable with the word "male"
    That's incorrect.
    For example,

    The male Mandarin Duck is one of the most spectacular looking birds.
    The man Mandarin Duck is one of the most spectacular looking birds.
    The boy Mandarin Duck is one of the most spectacular looking birds.

  9. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    And it doesn't work in "I need a male to male connector adapter for one of my devices".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #10

    Re: Strength of synonyms

    Man and boy are not synonyms, there may be a bit of crossover, but that's it. They share the same gender, but you wouldn't say that the sex of a baby was man.

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