Great
Posted: 28 June 2016 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A few months ago a white British MP described Islam as ‘’one of the world’s great religions’’ and I wondered if he meant large or admirable. He might well have welcomed the ambiguity and would never have said ‘’Islam is great’’ or the same about any religion, a topic they avoid because faith or lack of it is not a factor in how Britons vote. He could have said ‘’one of the world’s major religions’’ but perhaps wanted to flatter Muslim voters.

Great and grand must originally have meant large or significant but later have come to also mean admirable or worthy or spectacular. The Great Vowel Shift, the Grand Canyon, the Great Pretender, it’s a grand place is Blackpool - we had a great time there, the Rio Grande, The Great Gatsby, the great and the good, what Frosties are, a Grand Tour of Europe, the Grand Panjandrum, Great Britain, and so on.

Some of those may have been assigned the ‘’wrong’’ meaning by contemporary folk. What would you say people take ‘’the great religions’’ to mean nowadays?

I looked up God is great/Allahu akbar and it is a
mistranslation. It also has many applcations

Many Muslims recite Allahu Akbar in their daily lives to remind themselves of God’s vastness and power. Islam’s 1.6 billion followers say it in every occasion and it has a multitude of meanings. It is repeated in times of distress, as an expression of joy, following births and deaths and during Islamic festivals such as Eid as a declaration to Allah. Arab football commentators are known to have shouted this multi-purpose phrase as an expression of amazement.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 04:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t think you would get much disagreement if you said ’Islam has formed the basis of one of the world’s great cultures; I suspect some such concept underlay his statement.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You wrote, “large or significant”, and “significant” is what comes to mind when I hear the phrase “great religions”.  That is to say, those religions which have had the most impact on human history, society, culture, language, etc.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The overused adjective “great” has many definitions, but very seldom is it used for its original definition relating to size:

Merriam Webster

Definition of great
1
a :  notably large in size :  huge
b :  of a kind characterized by relative largeness —used in plant and animal names
c :  elaborate, ample <great detail>

2
a :  large in number or measure :  numerous <great multitudes>
b :  predominant <the great majority>

3
:  remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness <great bloodshed>

4
:  full of emotion <great with anger>

5
a :  eminent, distinguished <a great poet>
b :  chief or preeminent over others —often used in titles <Lord Great Chamberlain>
c :  aristocratic, grand <great ladies>

6
:  long continued <a great while>

7
:  principal, main <a reception in the great hall>

8
:  more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative <great-grandfather>

9
:  markedly superior in character or quality; especially :  noble <great of soul>

10
a :  remarkably skilled <great at tennis>
b :  marked by enthusiasm :  keen <great on science fiction>

11
—used as a generalized term of approval <had a great time> <it was just great>


It seems in today’s world everyone is great: a great athlete, a great writer, a great actor ad infinitum, but very few have actually achieved greatness.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think this is what is meant.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Logophile - 28 June 2016 08:11 AM

The overused adjective “great” has many definitions, but very seldom is it used for its original definition relating to size:

Merriam Webster

Definition of great
1
a :  notably large in size :  huge
b :  of a kind characterized by relative largeness —used in plant and animal names
c :  elaborate, ample <great detail>

2
a :  large in number or measure :  numerous <great multitudes>
b :  predominant <the great majority>

3
:  remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness <great bloodshed>

4
:  full of emotion <great with anger>

5
a :  eminent, distinguished <a great poet>
b :  chief or preeminent over others —often used in titles <Lord Great Chamberlain>
c :  aristocratic, grand <great ladies>

6
:  long continued <a great while>

7
:  principal, main <a reception in the great hall>

8
:  more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative <great-grandfather>

9
:  markedly superior in character or quality; especially :  noble <great of soul>

10
a :  remarkably skilled <great at tennis>
b :  marked by enthusiasm :  keen <great on science fiction>

11
—used as a generalized term of approval <had a great time> <it was just great>


It seems in today’s world everyone is great: a great athlete, a great writer, a great actor ad infinitum, but very few have actually achieved greatness.

Great post!

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Posted: 28 June 2016 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A few months ago a white British MP described Islam as ‘’one of the world’s great religions’’ and I wondered if he meant large or admirable

I think your choice of speaker is, to say the least, unfortunate, venomousbede. It smacks of naiveté, to expect a statement like that, by a politician, to mean anything at all.  It seems obvious to me that the statement was deliberately intended NOT to mean anything in particular, so that each listener could put on it the interpretation of his choice, without the speaker having committed him- or herself to any viewpoint whatsoever.

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Posted: 28 June 2016 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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What lionello said.

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Posted: 29 June 2016 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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That’s why I wrote in my OP that the MP ‘’might well have welcomed the ambiguity’’. He can’t take sides regarding religion if only for fear of alienating voters and so chose an anodyne cliche. I was more interested in what his listeners would have taken ‘’great religion’’ to mean in a general sense. Is it determined by their beliefs? America is overwhelmingly Christian so there it may be understood as ‘’with many followers’’ though that doesn’t apply to Judaism which is, however, great in influence having begat two of the others as well as numerous other cultural and artistic achievements. I don’t know. That’s why I asked.

[ Edited: 29 June 2016 08:22 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 29 June 2016 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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This would seem to be the relevant definition from the OED:

13. Of things, places, actions, events, etc.

a. Of considerable importance, significance, or distinction; important, weighty; distinguished, prominent; famous, renowned; impressive. Also in weakened sense: highly commendable, praiseworthy

I would say that even if not used in the “highly commendable” sense, great carries a positive connotation. Major religion would be more neutral. If one were to set about disparaging Islam, great would not be among the adjectives used.

One might also take great religion to mean large in size, but given that Judaism, which is quite small in number of adherents, would normally be accounted among the “great” by those of us in the West, that’s probably less likely to be the sense meant or understood.

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