Thursday, August 12, 2010


this is an example I use with my students. I didn't make it up. I got it from a book that Gary Hatch--the old director of composition at BYU--wrote. It is just a paraphrase, though, because I don't know where my copy of the book is (as if I could get up and look anyway! HA! if you know where my skin graft is, you know why this is harder than it sounds).

Example #1:

Coraline paused as she entered and glanced about. An elegant dress draped subtly along her slender form. Her smooth hair accentuated her chiseled features. As she accepted a rose from her escort, she smelled the petals and looked over into his eyes. Coraline had the talent of making every male feel like the only man in the world.

Example # 2:

Coraline halted as she arrived and looked around. A simple dress hung on her thin frame. Her flat hair accentuated her sharp features. As she took a flower from her date, she sniffed it and stared at him. Coraline had the habit of making every male feel like the last man on earth.

the difference between these examples is connotation. The *denotation*--dictionary, literal definition--of each word is the same. In fact, BOTH of these could be considered "accurate" translations of a non-English text into English. But whether or not they are "good" translations depends upon the translator's mastery of connotation--that is, all of the associations that build up around words.


"chiseled" makes you think of an artist who sculpts with care, i.e., something beautiful, or, at least carefully crafted.

"sharp" makes you think of a knife, or cheese, i.e., something that either stinks or makes you bleed and feel pain.

When referring to a face, both these descriptors describe the same type of facial characteristics, so the denotation is the same. But the connotation can make one the opposite of the other.


nicole said...

I am very sorry you're stuck in bed... But I'm also kind of liking all of these posts.

Kerry said...

I've actually been stuck in bed for WEEKS (a month today!). But I'm coming off of pain meds now and have a brain again. They had me on CRAZY CRAZY amounts. Because turns out that there is literally no where else in the body with as many nerves as the place they cut off me. But the drugs made me stoopid.

The nice thing about being stoopid, though, is that you never get bored. I kind of liked that part.