Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Creative Truth-Telling

Connotations (how a word makes us feel) versus Denotations (what the word simply means). For example, "rich" and "affluent" mean basically the same thing. However, "rich" has a tangible, golden connotation, whereas "affluent" sounds much more elegant and elevated.

Playing with connotations/denotations is such a lovely, dangerous game. Everyone should know how to do it a little bit, because along with classic honesty, sometimes it's important to be able to slant things positively.

For instance, what if you're trying to get a high-maintenance friend a date, or write a recommendation letter for a difficult person? {Or what if you're trying to portray your crush's awesome love interest in a less poetic light? Not that anyone would ever do that...} You might want to have some handy synonyms in the front of your mind...

Here are some words with the same (or similar enough) denotations, but very different connotations:

Negative ~~ Positive
Aggressive ~~ Energetic
Arrogant ~~ Confident
Cowardly ~~ Cautious
Emotional ~~ Sensitive
Foolish ~~ Innocent
Impulsive ~~ Spontaneous
Judgmental ~~ Analytical
Lazy ~~ Relaxed
Narrow-minded ~~ Careful Thinker
Shallow ~~ Socially Aware
Stubbornness ~~ Steadfastness
Tactless/Outspoken ~~ Straight-Forward
Timid ~~ Unassuming
Vain ~~ Self-Aware

John is outspoken, vain, and stubborn. He judges people too harshly and is completely obsessed with materialistic things.  His impulsiveness make it hard to plan things well, but he's so pigheaded that he won't let anyone change his mind.


John is straight-forward, self-aware, steadfast. He analyses effectively and is very economically aware. His spontaneity makes life exciting, and his steadfastness can make him a valuable ally.



  1. On a post like this I think even the title is creative truth telling. To me the example of John isn't creative truth telling as much as varnishing over rot, but that could just be me.

  2. True XD But sometimes you can't escape these kind of obligations.

  3. What kind of obligations? If you're trying to get a friend a date won't the other person eventually learn what kind of person John really is? If I was the one dating John I'd wonder why you had given him the politician's treatment

  4. I only object because I seem to see a much wider gulf between the words you used in your list of examples. I would hate a person that could be described with your negative word list but like a person with the positive word list. To me they're very different people, not just different ways of describing the same person

  5. The post was intended to be light and a bit sarcastic XD I wrote it as I drafted a recommendation letter for a close family friend whom I don't have the highest opinion of. Declining the request to write the letter wasn't really an option, as it would have caused a ridiculous amount of unending strife between our families.

    In hindsight, I probably should have just left the example paragraph off.


  6. Sorry, I knew you weren't completely serious but I didn't know how satirical you were actually being. It hit a nerve with me because I see this happening in real life too much