Friday, August 27, 2010

Words got connotations, too

There is, as the oft-cribbed Mark Twain phrase says, a lot of difference between the right word and the almost-right word.

That is never more true than in the silly season - i.e., the weeks before Election Day.

So why do we forget that?

(Disclaimer: What I am about to say should not be interpreted as favoring one candidate or another. We're talking language, not politics, here.)

In an AP story by Seanna Adcox* on the S.C. governor's race between Democrat Vincent Sheheen and Republican Nikki Haley is this graf:

Haley wants to eliminate those [corporate income] taxes, while Sheheen called that a bad idea in a state that already has one of the nation's lowest corporate tax rates. Though Sheheen said he would aggressively use incentives to bring companies to the state, Haley took a more apprehensive approach, saying it would depend on factors such as a company's long-term plans in the state.

The problem is the word "apprehensive." Words have connotations, and the connotation of apprehensive is not just cautious, but anxious, almost fearful. I'm betting that wasn't how Haley reacted as she spoke to a room full of business people. I know the writer was trying to draw a negative parallel with "aggressive, but "cautious" would be the more neutral word, and for that matter, why is it needed at all?
Though Sheheen said he would aggressively use incentives to bring companies to the state, Haley took a more apprehensive approach, saying said it would depend on factors such as a company's long-term plans in the state.
By using the questionable word, the writer risks deprecating her work among the partisans and among those who have a discerning eye and ear.

This is why we have editors, to make sure writers don't color outside the lines, and in the silly season editors' tone detectors should be on the same power as their B.S. detectors - ultra-high.

*Follow that link while you can - The State has a habit of deep-sixing such links rather quickly.

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2 Comments:

At 5/8/14, 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're saying that apprehensive has a negative connotation?

 
At 5/8/14, 12:46 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I guess if you see "fearful" as negative, then yes. I don't really see it as negative in an approbative way, just that it has an intensity that probably was too strong in this case.
-D

 

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