General Question

6rant6's avatar

Can you suggest word pairs that have a different relationship for different people?

Asked by 6rant6 (13692points) January 7th, 2012

Some words people in general would agree are highly correlated, like “nutritious/healthy” or “remote/mysterious.”

Other words have a strong negative correlation: “beneficial/death” or “absent/decisive.”

But there are some word pairs for which some of reflexively think of them as positively correlated and some of us think of them as negatively correlated. I’m thinking pairs like, “patriotic/ethical” or “Christian/forgiveness” or “liberal/efficient”.

I’m considering whether the use of these words prohibits conciliatory dialogue because of the normative weight of the second word in each pair. Anyway, I’m looking for more (better?) examples. The more specific the words are the more appropriate they will be for this process.

Thanks for your help.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

23 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

I don’t think I understand the question. Sorry.

zenvelo's avatar


SmashTheState's avatar

Put down the Derrida, back away slowly with your hands up, and go outside.

To address your question seriously, I think you’re making some structuralist assumptions about the universality of archetypal word meanings, which is ironic considering your deconstructionist premise. Chomsky argues persuasively that words have amorphous, overlapping clouds of meaning rather than strict Platonist definitions, so that these word pairs speak more about psychology than linguistics. The normative function is also only a problem if one assumes relativity, which I don’t. As something of a positivist, I take the Kantian view that there are certain inescapable truths which must exist in order for knowledge itself to exist, and once you have certainty of anything, you have natural law and its human equivalent, natural justice – which means an absolute rather then relative morality. This means a certain amount of normative language is not only desirable but inevitable.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t understand it either.

downtide's avatar

I don’t understand the question or @SmashTheState ‘s answer.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t know if there is a name for this or not, I play around with what I call wordjam. I don’t know why, but it’s fun for me… just something to do. Whether this fits your question or not is up to you. Some examples include:


I’m still waiting to see if my word “emonigma” has been accepted by the urban dictionary or not. Should find out within a day or two.

harple's avatar



(am I anywhere close?)

PhiNotPi's avatar

It took me a while to figure out the question and @SmashTheState‘s answer, but I think I understand.

The question seems to be asking for pairs of words that aren’t direct opposites or synonyms, but may or may not be considered the same, depending on a person’s point of view. I agree with @SmashTheState‘s answer regarding your assumptions. I believe in what @SmashTheState describes as overlapping clouds of meaning.

Nutritious is pretty much defined as healthy, making it what I am going to call a one-way synonym. Nutritious things are by definition healthy, while not all things that are healthy are nutritious because nutritious only describes food. The “cloud” of “healthy” extends beyond “nutritious.”

In your example of beneficial/death, I believe that although it is normally not the case, it is possible for a death to benefit society. I’m pretty sure that it is a good thing that many people, such as Stalin or Hitler, aren’t immortal. Although the cloud of death is almost completely separate from the cloud of benefit, there are a very few cases where it may overlap.

Also, I like how I worded the phrase ’‘The cloud of death.”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@PhiNotPi ”...overlapping clouds of meaning…”

Eeeheweeooo I love that.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Why? I’m serious, why? Did I miss something?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I just love the way it sounds and the visual it brings to mind. I’m all about the age of petabyte, so cloud analogies speak to me.

bkcunningham's avatar


Is that what you mean, @6rant6?

CWOTUS's avatar

Say whut? I’m going with passive / aggressive on this.

saint's avatar


bkcunningham's avatar

police officer/protection

zenvelo's avatar

One more:


It would be nice if the OP at least responded to the discussion from his afternoon.

gailcalled's avatar

I don’t understand the question either but it was worth reading strings of words such as conciliatory, normative, structuralist, archetypal, Platonic, Kantian, deconstructionist, positivist in order to meet…

the sentence of the day, courtesy of @SmashTheState:

Put down the Derrida, back away slowly with your hands up, and go outside.

Oh, yeah, baby.

harple's avatar

pain/hurt (nsfw?!)

6rant6's avatar

@harpie, “numbers/safety” is good in that some people regard __crowds__ as safety providing and others regard them as safety denying. So maybe crowds/ssafety would be more on point.

6rant6's avatar

Love these two:


This one is very thought provoking. I’m not sure the negative is quite nature/God though. Perhaps it’s nature/moral?

This one I don’t get: dark/evil Yes there are people who don’t associate dark with evil, but few would correlate dark with a lack of evil.

This one I don’t get at all: depressed/sick Are you saying that some people hear depression and instinctively think, “not sick”?

6rant6's avatar

@SmashTheState Yes, I’m looking at the area where linguistics overlaps with psychology, namely “persuasion.”

It’s just a seed of an idea. And I preferred it to asking, “What should I watch on Netflix tonight.”

bkcunningham's avatar

I think some people misunderstand depression and believe people can “snap out of it.” That was my premise with depressed/sick. Perhaps it is just the circle of people I’ve known in my life.

You are right with the dark/evil correlation. If I’m getting what you meant, perhaps, darkness/peace would be better.


6rant6's avatar

@bkcunningham I’ll second both of those.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther