Same but different
Posted by Henry on February 03, 2005
In Reply to: Vacuum posted by Lewis on February 03, 2005
: : : : : : I seem to remember reading somewhere that the only true synonyms in English are 'Gorse, furze and whin' which all mean exactly the same thing (a yellow-flowered shrub common in Europe, officially known as Ulex europaeus) and have no other meaning and are always completely interchangeable.
: : : : : : Can anyone think of any other words which mean precisely the same thing on every occasion, without even the slightest nuance of a difference?
: : : : : : DFG
: : : : : Nil and zero? Twelve and dozen? Selfish and Republican?
: : : : A slight nuance of difference between a puppy and a Democrat is that sooner or later, the puppy stops whining. GWB
: : : Nuance? Your vocabulary is improving.
: : There is an even slighter nuance in the use of furze, gorse and whin. Whilst they always share the same meaning, Fowler distinguishes whin as chiefly in use in Scotland, Ireland and the North of England.
: if 'nil' and 'zero' then 'all' and 'every'
: I would respectfully suggest that a synonym is a word that MAY be able to replace another without altering the meaning. expressed that way, context comes in - for example you cannot make an omelette with 'ova' (broken or not), but you can fertilise an 'egg' with 'semen', 'sperm' or 'seed'.
: I think the requirement for being a synonym is the capacity of a word, not universal application.
: You either have a 'vacuum' or you don't...
Well, Fowler for one was prepared to qualify synonyms. '[Furze and gorse] would appear to be that very great rarity, a pair of exact synonyms, meaning the same thing and used indifferently in all localities and contexts.' Of course, he may not have been correct on everything, but he usually has something interesting to say.