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#113070 - 10/03/03 08:52 PM connotation v. denotation
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
We all know what these two mean here, don't we? They're just easy to distinguish between for us, aren't they!

Problem is: The dictionary definitions, though clear to us, are going to fall flat on the ears of my kids at school.

Can any of you take a stab at connotation--explain it in your own words with any example, no matter how bizarre? Actually, bizarre examples seem to have more sticking power than ordinary ones.

I will be very appreciative. If I can use something that one of you uses here, I will certainly give your board name persona credit. Oh, and I will provide about four different definitions out of standard dictionaries for my kids, but, honestly, real people's off-the-cuff explanations seem to get class discussions going more than, ho-hum, dictionary definitions.

Thanks for any input into connotation.

#113071 - 10/03/03 11:08 PM Re: connotation v. denotation
Capfka Offline

Registered: 06/28/02
Posts: 1624
Loc: Utter Placebo, Planet Reebok
Ha! Well, it's 5 a.m. here, so let's hope that this makes sense:

Connotation, to me is an implied secondary meaning in addition to the direct meaning. And I'd better be right, because that's the way I've always used it and I'd look a right idiot if I've got it wrong, huh?

"Wordwind went to the shop. The connotation of that is that she needed to buy some groceries."

Denote, on the other hand, is the primary meaning - "The stars on the New Zealand flag denote the Southern Cross."


#113072 - 10/03/03 11:23 PM Re: connotation v. denotation
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Connotation: an idea that is understood but not stated, when a certain word or phrase is used.

I think the only way I internalized this meaning was by seeing examples. I'll see if I can think of any: evil; gypsyish; hippie. Here's one they may relate to, although I myself don't know all the connotations: punk, or punker.
This thread reminds me of Anna's link to that site where foreign writers had so much trouble translating Pres. Bush's "Bring it on"--we in the U.S. knew exactly what was meant.

EDIT: Hrmph! Well, [nose in air e] it's getting on for 12:30 a.m., here, so I hope mine makes sense! (How dare he sneak his in while I was composing, grumble grumble...)

#113073 - 10/04/03 07:08 AM Re: connotation v. denotation
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
Dear Wordwind

One of the problems with connotation is, of course, that often the primary connotation takes on the role of main meaning, or denotation. For instance, sinister means left-handed, or on the left, but the connotation, from left-handed people being viewed as a bit weird, has now become the denotative meaning for the word – a bit dark and possibly evil.

If you want really explosive, as it were, denotation/connotation differences, try sexually or racially loaded words. The word ‘negro’, for instance, is simply Spanish for ‘black’, but think of the connotations!

What about ‘blonde’? Of course it’s a hair colour, but worldwide (and especially in the UK), it also ‘stands for’ ditzy, dizzy, silly, even stupid: “I’m having a blonde moment”.

Or take another simple example: ‘vulture’ – a type of large bird that usually feeds by scavenging and tends to have a featherless head and neck. But connotatively – the epitome of the evil feeder on the dead, a scrounger that waits for you to die so that it can ravage your corpse. How easily it lends itself to metaphorical use with regard to humans and their behaviours: impossible without the connotations of the word.

Or think of words that, in modern scientific use are near-synonyms, like ‘brain’ and ‘mind’, but how different in their connotations: a mind suggests an aspiring object, an entity separated from the corporeal, a thing that drives itself; a brain, on the other hand, is definitely corporeal and if at all it drives the body, it seems to do so mechanically, compared to the spiritual dimension we attribute to the mind. The brain can be clever, but it is the mind that is creative.

“This is the feminine gender”. “She is very feminine”. Cherchez le difference…

Nice topic.


the sunshine warrior

#113074 - 10/04/03 07:18 AM Re: connotation v. denotation
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
The usage note for denote in the AHD4, I think, is good, as are the examples we've been given here by various AWADdies. What we need is a good mnemonic for remembering which is which.

Denote just sounds more 'pointy" to me; connote has more of a sidelong feel to it.

#113075 - 10/04/03 08:49 AM Re: connotation v. denotation
Alex Williams Offline

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1814
Loc: Spam Factory
Many euphimisms and aphorisms convey meaning through their connotations in that more is understood than what is actually said. Here are some examples that come to mind. Not all may be suitable for children...

A woman of ill repute At face value this means a woman who has a bad reputation for some unstated reason; we all know that it means a prostitute. Likewise a lady of the evening.

John kicked the bucket. Everyone knows this has nothing to do with John's foot and a cylindrical container.

Watch the maid closely as she has sticky fingers. The maid's fingers are soiled with glue or honey; she's known to be prone to larceny.

There are lots of (unkind) euphimisms for mental illness: bats in the belfry, not playing with a full deck, etc

Likewise for stupidity: not the most colorful crayon in the box, not the sharpest pencil in the pack etc

#113076 - 10/04/03 12:33 PM Re: connotation v. denotation
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Here's another example, WW. My daughter and I have just returned home from what was known for years and years as the St. James Court Art Fair. Recently the official name was changed to the St. James Court Art Show. And I hate that, because although it is a juried art show, the noun "fair" has SUCH a better connotation about it: images of movement, color, and most of all, fun. And this really is; it's out of doors, on a street full of Victorian houses and big old trees; the atmosphere is very fair-like--customers and sellers alike are ready to have a good time: there are no grouches, there! The displays, of course, are colorful, and some of the art even moves, such as hanging stained glass and the big, bright kites; and the crowd makes an ever-changing kaleidoscope (not one you could fit in your house, Helen!) of movement, color, and noise.

We got hot chocolate to sustain us through the chill upon our arrival, and by lunch time we were sitting at a picnic table with our food, the sun warming us and just enough of a breeze to keep it from being hot. Wonderful!

#113077 - 10/04/03 12:55 PM Re: connotation v. denotation
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Thanks to everybody above! You've provided a good number of terrific examples I can use when putting together the Connotation Page.

How much fun using the 'having a blonde moment' and Jackie's story about the art fair v. art show among the others above. I think I can broach a little bit of sexuality. Need to think about that...

In doing a bit of Googling, I realized that another area rife with examples is that of pictorial connotations used in advertising. So I'll try to pull one apt example in black and white off the Web to flesh out my page a bit.

Many thanks to you all! If I put the page together this weekend, I'll paste here what I ended up with other than the pictures.

#113078 - 10/05/03 11:45 AM Re: cottonation v. detonation
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
This is very easy: detonation is the action of causing a substance to explode; cottonation (quite a rare word) is the action of friezing cloth.

what's that?!... oh, never mind.

#113079 - 10/05/03 12:48 PM Re: cottonation v. detonation
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
But, but...cotton plants won't grow where it's freezing...

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