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true synonyms
Posted: 11 May 2007 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I suppose there is reindeer and caribou.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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What is meant by “true synonym”?  The first definition in MWOnline is “1: one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses”.  But I take it that we are talking about something considerably more strict:  two words which denote the same thing (do they have to connote the same thing as well?) and which have the same range of meaning.  That is, their ranges of senses do not merely intersect, but are identical.

So taking the reindeer/caribou example.  Yes, they refer to the same species.  But would a native English speaker speak of a reindeer in Canada or a caribou in Finland?  It doesn’t seem idiomatic to me.  Nor would we expect to hear an inspirational song about how Carl the Club-footed Caribou saved Santa’s butt.

So while there is perhaps the interesting philosophical question of does a reindeer transported to Canada become a caribou, and at one point in the journey this transformation occurs.  But on a practical level, the words are not used completely synonymously.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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It seems to me you’re confusing range of meaning with range of contextual use.  If caribou and reindeer refer to the same animal, they have the same meaning (if meaning means what I think it means); if people tend to use one word more when talking about animals in a particular region, that’s an interesting fact about usage, but I don’t see how it affects synonymy.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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languagehat - 11 May 2007 05:57 AM

It seems to me you’re confusing range of meaning with range of contextual use.

I’m trying to tease out what is meant by “true synonym”, since it seems not to follow the dicitonary definition of the mere unmodified “synonym”.  So it may be that contextual use is irrelevant to “true synonyms” but I don’t know.

And I do kind of wonder when in the intercontinental journey a reindeer becomes a caribou.  Is it based on longitude?

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Posted: 11 May 2007 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Nor would use of one word by an author or in a particular oft-quoted literary phrase change the range of meaning. Gorse and furze are true synonyms regardless of which one A.A. Milne chose to use.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Regarding cellar and basement, at the other extreme, so to speak, what about loft and attic? For me, an attic has the feel of somewhere you can hang out in, maybe with a train set, while a loft is for storing stuff amongst lagged pipes, a water tank, and the danger of coming a cropper and putting your foot through the bedroom ceiling, hence, in the UK, ‘loft conversions’ (into attics?).
Are garrets always occupied?

I saw a cartoon of a scowling man with blackened hands descending from his loft. His wife is saying, “I told you there were dirty books in the loft.”

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Posted: 11 May 2007 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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JimWilton - 11 May 2007 04:55 AM

I suppose there is reindeer and caribou.

I was going to post that pair earlier, but a quick check showed caribou has the implication of North American and wild, while reindeer are Eurasian and occasionally domesticated.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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venomousbede - 11 May 2007 06:38 AM

what about loft and attic?

Rather an opposite take here on loft and attic… attic is unfinished storage space while a loft can be a platform in a high ceilinged rooom or balcony-like room from which you can see into the room below.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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And where I grew up a loft was in a barn and an attic was in a house.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Droogie, my Yorkshire grandfather used to say, ‘Was’t tha born in a barn?’ meaning ‘shut the door’ but that is as far as it went for this middle-class urban boy!
Maybe dialect nouns for identical objects are the only true synonyms (if this term is still valid here!) rather than, say, minute and tiny which is more what I was wondering about, not that these two work at all as true synonyms. Ponder and think? Nope. Folly and foolhardiness? Nope. Ophthalmologist and eye doctor?

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Posted: 11 May 2007 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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How about briar and bramble? - inspiration gained by staring out of the window at my weed-patch of a garden.

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Posted: 11 May 2007 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Nor would use of one word by an author or in a particular oft-quoted literary phrase change the range of meaning. Gorse and furze are true synonyms regardless of which one A.A. Milne chose to use.

I agree with you but your statement seems to be more about the definition of synonym than of gorse and furze. My point was that, if one so chose, one could draw the parameters of synonym so tightly that any preference, aesthetic deliberation, or regional variation would deny the status of synonymity.

But on a practical level, the words are not used completely synonymously.

That’s the nut of the kernel, or vice versa.

[ Edited: 12 May 2007 03:05 AM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 12 May 2007 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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A loft can also be an apartment created out of what was formerly warehouse or industrial space, as in “he lives in a loft in Tribeca.” I live in such a loft (but not in Tribeca.)

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Posted: 12 May 2007 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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A loft can also be an apartment created out of what was formerly warehouse or industrial space

That’s my primary association with the word (as someone who lived in NYC for 23 years).

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Posted: 14 May 2007 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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’Furze’ and ‘wuzzy’ would be synonymous but that probably doesn’t count as wuzzy is both dialectical/colloquial and by now probably archaic (I’ll just pop up North Devon and have a listen!)

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