General Question

wabarr's avatar

Does the verb "to relegate" always have negative connotations?

Asked by wabarr (458points) May 13th, 2008

I know there is a common usage which implies demotion. However, this word sometimes comes up in technical scientific literature in reference to classifying some thing/concept to a particular category. Doe this word always carry a pejorative connotation to you?

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6 Answers

soundedfury's avatar

Like many English words, relegate has different definitions based on context.

1. To demote, send into exile or banish
2. To refer to someone else for expertise or judgement
3. To classify.

It doesn’t have negative connotations, it has negative denotations based on context.

Arglebargle_IV's avatar

the root of ”legate” has historic connotations such as:
a governor sent to a province
a deputy
someone sent with a commission
to have to ”re+legate” implies that the original charge may have failed
I think the term has mild negative connotations, and I cannot think of a context for the term that would be positive.
Although ”relegate” may be used as a euphemism, how can it be a good thing?

whatthefluther's avatar

Arglebargle_IV…as previously mentioned there is a current usage simply meaning “to classify” and in that context there is no negative suggestion.

Arglebargle_IV's avatar

when first I read the concise and correct post from soundedfury, I was ready to flag his answer as a Great Answer. I am not saying that anyone is wrong, now.
however, when I thought further about the word “relegate,” I realized it does indeed carry a negative connotation for me. curious at my own reaction, I looked up the root in a dictionary and formed my curious thought.
again, I will challenge you (playfully and respectfully) to use “relegate” correctly in a sentence that has a positive connotation.—nothing comes to mind for me.
is this forum for the creative exchange of ideas, or dare I not question the official answers?
does your logo imply you are a fluther official? or is your intent to intimidate?
I am very mildly taken aback (mostly curious, though) at your “correction.”

wabarr's avatar

@soundedfury, I don’t disagree with your several listed denotations of the word…in fact, I came up with the same ones after using a google search define:relegate. However, my question was about connotation. Given that the primary usage of the word denotes demotion (your first definition), can one use the non-negative denotation (your third) without evoking the negative connotations of the most common usage?

soundedfury's avatar

I understood the question, but you are applying the term connotation to mark something that is present in the denotation, which you can’t do. Think of it this way, denotation is the definition, but connotation is what is implied by the common usage. You cannot imply something that is explicitly already there.

What I’m saying is that you can use “relegate” without evoking the negative denotation as long as you use it properly within context – in scientific or technical classification – but only with people who are aware of the context.

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