Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Definition of Words - Words Connotations

David Copperfield (1935 film)Image via Wikipedia

Word Connotations

 Definition of Connotation:
Connotation means the power that words have to appeal to our senses and emotions. Knowing this particular bit of information can take a writer a long way in manipulating reader’s attention and emotions.
With connotation we suggest or imply instead of stating something bluntly. What this means is that writers aren’t restricted to the dictionary meaning of words because by means of connotation they can go beyond the dictionary—beyond literal meaning.

In addition, fine writers are aware of the different shades of meaning between synonyms. Just because the dictionary or a thesaurus lists several synonyms it doesn’t mean that they have the exact same meaning. To gain your readership’s sympathy or antipathy, you may want to use just the right noun: car, automobile, runabout, buggy, banger, clunker, wheels, bus, hot rod, jalopy, old crock, and racer

In her novel Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen lets no room doubt that Mr. Darcy is a proud individual. Yet, she also lets readers see him as other characters see him: conceited, self-confident, and arrogant.

Simple connotation can be accomplished economically by a word, phrase, sentences, or direct statements.
Here are some examples of connotation:
Eleanor is a twit.
Stanley is a boob.
He always smells like garlic and sweat mixed with cheap man’s cologne.
President Bush smirked at the senator.

Jane Austen in her novel Mansfield Park presents Mrs. Norris as a consistent nag who sees nothing positive in the heroine, Fanny Price. By this consistency, readers are brought about to dislike her and to like Fanny. Surely this is an overt way of manipulating the readers’ emotions. At the end of the novel we are well prepared for, Mrs. Norris’ comeuppance as she quits Mansfield Park: “Not even Fanny had tears for Aunt Norris, not even when she was gone forever.”

Personal or Individual connotation are suggestive words that are applied to a particular individual, as in the examples cited above. However, connotations may also be used in a generalized or universal way. For example: Communists stink of dogma.

Generalized connotations can infect not only the name but also an entire genre. J. D. Salinger in his novelette, The Catcher in the Rye, by using the eponymous hero’s name ‘David Copperfield’ in one fell swoop shocks the reader into discarding an antiquated type of narration. Salinger implies —through the name David Copperfield— that the 19th century novel, with all its sentimentality and flat language is pass√©, that readers will not find that old style in the Catcher:  

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Connotation using a disguised simile (a comparison without using ‘as’ or ‘like’):

She wore a pale-yellow sweater that resembled the hue of certain urine samples I’ve seen.

By describing the subject’s sweater with the colors of body excretion and of the worse possible kind, the writer is appealing to the reader’s aversions and discomfort that such signals produce.

The wind died and the silence that followed was broken by the sway and creak of the elms and cypresses.

Although the reader isn’t told explicitly, one can expect that the character associated with this scene is being marked for death—the connotation is that of a cemetery.

Connotation by infection:
In this type of connotation the meaning from an object or objects are transferred to a character. Let’s look at this example from Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield:

She [Miss Murdstone] brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arms by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bit.

The objects being described are two boxes, a purse, and a bag, yet the subterranean connotative meaning is not intended towards the objects but to the character of the subject—Miss Murdstone. In other words, the connotative words exert power on the subject by contagion; just like a contagious disease.

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