Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Yes, English Users, last post we broke the news that some words in the English language are affected with multiple personalities.

Looking back, we're truly sorry if we've broken the heart of those who thought that a simple word like "move" only had one meaning.

Today, we'll prove the same holds true for the word "break".

But hey, it doesn't mean that every time you see a new word, you should break out in tears because you have to break the code to break through to the "other" meaning.

So let's break this down in simple terms.

  1. Whatever you read, try to understand and infer the general meaning (or topic) of the text first.
  2. Then and only then, use a dictionary to find words that are unclear.
  3. Remember: words that describe basic ideas, attributes, objects and actions are used in a denotative and connotative ways.
  4. When they are used in a denotative way, the sentence will usually have a simple linear structure. (He broke the glass. Get the report! Where did I put my keys? The box is heavy.)
  5. Beware: often they can also form part of an idiom, so the entire expression gives a connotative meaning to the original word.
  6. There are usually clues in such sentences that will determine if it has a simple denotative meaning or if it's something more complex or connotative. (Remember step 1)
  7. In English - and really in any language - you shouldn't search for the meaning of a word out of context.
Suggested answers from last post:
  • Cool (adj): A temperature approximating cold (denotative) / Something is style or fashionable (connotative)
  • Sharp (adj): A pointed object like a knife (denotative) / A very intelligent person (connotative)
  • Soft (adj): Something that is not hard (denotative) / Lacking strength or courage (connotative)
  • Drive (noun): A trip in a vehicle (denotative) / Inner strength and determination (connotative)
Now try making sentences.

For more meanings of idioms with the word break or any word, check out this link.

And speaking of "break", we now invite you to take a break from all this and have a little fun watching the following video. It's The Simpsons - a show with "multiple personalities" making fun of yet another TV show: the prison drama Prison Break.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Words in English - just like in most other languages - often have more than one meaning. That`s right, English Users, they have... multiple personalities.

But before calling the word psychiatrist, let`s take a closer look at how this works.

The meaning of a word is either denotative or connotative.

The denotative meaning or the denotation of the word is basically its basic literal meaning, the one that normally appears first in the dictionary.

The connotative meaning on the other hand is a meaning that comes from an emotional or cultural association of the word. This meaning is usually not obvious and sometimes generates confusion when we first learn it.

Let`s take the word “move” for example.

Denotative Meaning
move (v.intr.) to change in position from one point to another.
Ex. Bill moved to Florida last week. (He literally changed his position from where he was before)

Connotative Meaning
move (v.intr.) to generate emotion
Ex. I was moved by Sally`s graduation speech. (The speech generated emotion in me, but I did not literally “move” anywhere).

“Moving Pictures” - The cover of Canadian rock band RUSH`s 1981 album Moving Pictures intentionally depicts a situation where both the denotative and the connotative meaning of the word “move” are true.
In the picture, we see a group of movers moving pictures from a museum to a different location. At the same time, we see a family, and especially an older woman who is so “moved” by the pictures (or the fact that they`re being moved) that she drops her grocery bags.

Interestingly enough, the compound term “moving pictures” is synonymous of “motion pictures” or movies, as the scene looks like it might be part of a movie.

So remember, English Users, words don`t usually have just one meaning.

For a better idea of this, see if you can find denotative and connotative meanings for the following words:

Cool (adj)
Sharp (adj)
Soft (adj)
Drive (noun)

Next post, we`ll provide our suggested answers. Good luck!