are pale and fair synonyms?

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forum_mail

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Hi there,

If I say: She's got a pale complexion and She's got a fair complexion, is the meaning the same?

thanks
 

Anglika

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No.

A pale complexion carries an implication of ill health - the person lacks colour in their skin and appears very white.

A fair complexion is a skin with a low degree of melatonin, so the blood circulating colours the skin with a tinge of pink. It usually goes with blonde hair.
 

stuartnz

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Hi there,

If I say: She's got a pale complexion and She's got a fair complexion, is the meaning the same?

thanks


I'm not a teacher, but I would say that while they are similar in meaning, they carry different connotations. A pale complexion could be taken negatively, to refer to someone who looks washed-out, or ill. A fair complexion would often be understood to be more of a compliment. If someone is unwell, they will likely hear: "You're looking pale, are you OK?" In that context, I would say that no native speaker would say ""You're looking fair, are you OK?" Similarly, in the fairy story, The wicked Queen asks her mirror: "Who's the fairest of them all?" She would NOT ask "Who's the palest (or most pale) of them all?"
 

David L.

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No.
'pale' means ' light in colour' or 'having little colour'
When referring to someone's face, we are meaning that they have less colour in their face than usual, and are intimating they may not be well; or because they have had a shock, or are pale with fear.
 

vil

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Hi forum_mail,

I am in a state of uncertainty. On the one hand I know many different synonyms of pale. On the other hand I know a few interpretations of the expressions in question. I sympathize with the stuartnz’s statement regarding the negative and positive meaning of the connotations in question, but there are some more examples bellow which flatly contradict them.

pale (adj.) = anaemic, ashen, bleached, chalky, colourless, dim, faded, faint, feeble, light, lily-livered, pallid, pasty, poor, sallow, thin, wan, washed-out, weak, white, white-livered.

Zheng was from Suzhou, Zhexi. He was born with a pale complexion and had long beard, a lean body, and broad shoulders. Due to his fair complexion and handsome good looks, he was nicknamed 'Fair-skinned gentleman' .

pale (adj.) = of a light color or complexion: alabaster, fair, ivory, light

fair-complexion = light-skinned = having little pigmentation

Individuals with Luna well aspected at birth are tall and fair with a pale complexion, round face, grey eyes, short arms and thick hands and feet.
Ada was a particularly striking young lady, with a pale complexion contrasted by very dark hair.
Big, vigorous, of imposing figure, impassive face and pale complexion, with a direct and thoughtful glance …
She was an extraordinarily attractive girl, with a pale complexion, a freckled face, and ginger hair:

.. said to be the most beautiful girl in the whole island, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and golden-brown hair.
Magee is 5ft 5in tall, slim, 8½ stone, fair complexion, blue eyes with fairly short, straight receding hair.
Broad head, broad face, fair complexion, blonde hair, blueish-grey eyes and this funny concave nose I have."
But it was as a young cricketer, distinctive even then with his fair complexion and blond hair.

Regards.

V.
 

stuartnz

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Hi forum_mail,

I am in a state of uncertainty. On the one hand I know many different synonyms of pale. On the other hand I know a few interpretations of the expressions in question. I sympathize with the stuartnz’s statement regarding the negative and positive meaning of the connotations in question, but there are some more examples bellow which flatly contradict them.
Regards.

V.

Absolutely. That's why I said that their meanings were similar but that they carry different connotations. I said "A pale complexion could be taken negatively" and "A fair complexion would often be ..." for just that reason. The use of "pale" in a positive way is not unheard of, but it is very much less common in most variants of English than the use of "fair" in a positive way. Does that sound fair to you? Or my answer just a pale imitation of a real one? :-D
 

vil

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Hi stuartnz,

“Or my answer just a pale imitation of a real one?

Quite the contrary! Your post at the present thread does not differ from the others your posts which were my favorite reading matter at the present forum. It was well sustained and as alwayes was brimming over with cultivated wittisisms. Its reading gave me an realy and truly an intelectual feast.

I am delighted with the fact that we are practically of the same mind about the matter in question.



Regards.

V.
 
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