1 of 3
1
true synonyms
Posted: 10 May 2007 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1221
Joined  2007-04-28

I remember reading, in Fowler’s MEU I think, that furze and gorse are the only true synonyms in English i.e. that in the case of other synonyms a sentence can always be found or formulated where
one is not quite right.
Surely there are other true synonyms?
(A cursory google search reveals that Tennyson was the first to make the gorse/furze observation; maybe this was picked up by Fowler.)

Thanks to Dave and bayard for instructions on how to use the quote function in a previous post of mine, too.

My main drift is that there must be other true synonyms though I’m damned if I can think of any!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1275
Joined  2007-03-21
venomousbede - 10 May 2007 07:38 AM

I remember reading, in Fowler’s MEU I think, that furze and gorse are the only true synonyms in English i.e. that in the case of other synonyms a sentence can always be found or formulated where
one is not quite right.

LH suggested some years ago, the various words for “narrow passage between buildings.” Ginnel/Snicket/Wynd/

These are regional variations on the same idea, but then, I think, so are Gorse and Furze.  So along those lines, perhaps Woodchuck and Groundhog.

[ Edited: 10 May 2007 08:25 AM by Oecolampadius ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  407
Joined  2007-02-14

How about moose or elk for Alces alces?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

To me basement and cellar are synonyms (I use them interchangeably, and as far as I can tell about equally, when referring to the space below the first/ground floor of our house where we store all the junk), even though I see the OED defines the former as “The lowest storey (not a cellar) of a building, esp. when sunk below the general ground level.” [Emphasis added.] Is that antiquated or just UK?

(Looking basement up in M-W, I find ”4. chiefly NewEng : a toilet or washroom esp. in a school” — weird! Anybody ever heard/used this? Mind you, I live in NewEng, but I don’t hang out in circles where school toilets are discussed.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1221
Joined  2007-04-28

Wow, you had it covered back in 2003 which must be why my search didn’t work here! Very interesting - seems to be dialect synonyms that apply rather than any mainstream ones.

My friend’s father used to refer to a ginnel when we all lived Manchester though I don’t think he was Mancunian. “Kin ‘ell, let’s mule it down the ginnel”, we would say on our way down the drinker.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1275
Joined  2007-03-21
languagehat - 10 May 2007 09:11 AM

To me basement and cellar are synonyms (I use them interchangeably, and as far as I can tell about equally,

But then you wouldn’t say “fruit basement” would you?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2331
Joined  2007-01-30

But then neither could you say furze-bird for gorse-bird, or gorse linnet .

1848 Zoologist VI. 2258 The linnet is a ‘*gorse linnet’, a ‘grey linnet’. 1896 R. B. SHARPE Handbk. Birds Gt. Brit. 45 The gorse-bushes being such a favourite nesting place that in many places the bird is known as the ‘Gorse’ Linnet.

OED lists several unique constructions for furze and gorse.

[ Edited: 10 May 2007 09:40 AM by aldiboronti ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2836
Joined  2007-01-31

Or “storm basement”, “coal basement”, “wine basement”.

Even without a modifier, there’s some diffence in connotation for me. “Cellar” more strongly implies a less-finished space with rough wall, lots of cobwebs, etc., used for storage or retreat in emergencies.  A basement doesn’t have to be nicer, but if someone had turned the space under their house into a den, rec-room, etc., suitable for relaxing or entertaining, I wouldn’t call that a cellar.

“Basic Engineering for Builders” (via Googlebooks) implies that builders distinguish between a cellar, in which more than half the height of the room is below grade level, and a basement, in which less than half is.  I don’t think this distinction is observed in general usage, though.

(Edit: I thought that link would go right to the relevant page, but it doesn’t.  See p. 13 and the referenced diagram on p. 14.)

[ Edited: 10 May 2007 01:06 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  825
Joined  2007-03-01

I see the OED defines the former as “The lowest storey (not a cellar) of a building, esp. when sunk below the general ground level.” [Emphasis added.] Is that antiquated or just UK?

It’s not antiquated. In the UK the distinction is that if the below-ground part of a building is divided into rooms and is used for human activity in the same way that any other floor of the building might be, it’s a basement. If it’s used primarily for storage, it’s a cellar.

Nowadays in department stores and public buildings you’ll often find the basement called the “lower ground floor”. I don’t know why; there seems to be some notion that “basement” isn’t quite genteel. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use that phrase of an ordinary house.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1369
Joined  2007-01-29

Anyone who’s interested in synonymous dialect words for food, fighting, alleyways, etc etc should read “Talking for Britain A Journey Through the Nation’s Dialects” by Simon Elmes.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2836
Joined  2007-01-31
jheem - 10 May 2007 09:05 AM

How about moose or elk for Alces alces?

Problem is that, in the US at least, hardly anybody except biologists calls Alces alces an elk.  In common use that word almost always refers to the wapiti, Cervus canadensis.

And elk is also used to refer to other species, such as the (extinct) Irish elk.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

But then you wouldn’t say “fruit basement” would you?

No, I wouldn’t.  But you clipped my original sentence, which was:

(I use them interchangeably, and as far as I can tell about equally, when referring to the space below the first/ground floor of our house where we store all the junk)

Bold added to emphasize part that makes it clear I wasn’t talking about a fruit cellar.  In any case, as the Good Doctor points out (or implies), words that are synonyms when free-standing can be differentiated in compounds.

Even without a modifier, there’s some diffence in connotation for me.

I’m sure there is for many (most?) people; I was just pointing out that for me they seem to be synonymous.  I didn’t grow up with them, hence didn’t learn fine distinctions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1275
Joined  2007-03-21

In any case, as the Good Doctor points out (or implies), words that are synonyms when free-standing can be differentiated in compounds.

GReat point.  And aldi supports that in his modifiers for the original synonym pair.  I know nothing from gorse or furze.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

GReat point.

I know that was just a garden-variety minor typo, but the capital R made me hear your comment in the voice of Tony the Tiger.  “GR-R-R-EAT point!”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  155
Joined  2007-01-28

Those buttery to butterscotch colored flowers, growing along freeways and the coast here in the Bay Area and blooming last month, are gorse. Now I know. It’s an invasive species here according to various websites.

The problem with the concept of a synonym is how narrowly or broadly you set your parameters. No two words’ “spheres” of usage overlap so completely that they form only one circle. In the case of furze/gorse, one could easily say that A.A. Milne wouldn’t have had Winnie the Pooh falling into a furze bush and getting his furs all tangled. I know I’ve run across the choice between two words and thought it didn’t make a bean’s worth of difference, but I can’t remember what they were. Pants and trousers are synonymous but I can never bring myself to say trousers unless I’m being facetious. “Dressed in a pink chiffon trouser-suit” sounds kind of silly.

These are regional variations on the same idea, but then, I think, so are Gorse and Furze.  So along those lines, perhaps Woodchuck and Groundhog.

That must be true. “How much ground would a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground?” doesn’t compete with “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” But “Woodchuck’s Day” just doesn’t make it.

[ Edited: 10 May 2007 04:43 PM by foolscap ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1178
Joined  2007-02-14

Then there was the occasional reference to the groundchuck in Pogo.

Or:

How much ground round would a hound dog hog if a hound dog was round ground.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 3
1
 
‹‹ expla(i)n - explanation...      quintuple ››