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Hello,
>Ding<
Chiming in for a round. I have to side with RE in this discussion. "Ignorant" is a necessary and important word in its 'original' (or shall we say etymological) sense. Having no one-word synonym makes it necessary; its importance is guaranteed in today's information-dominated world.

Perhaps its gradual eclipse (since 1886 per the OED) represents the rise of political correctness. It must have sounded less "classist" than "ill-mannered, loutish" in those days-- might even have been an honest attempt to raise consciousness as regards the possibility that "good breeding" was a matter of education, not birth.

As is inevitable, the euphemism eventually becomes a synonym for the 'inappropriate' sentiment it once hid. I suspect that today, with 'data' [knowledge] so easily and cheaply obtained, "ignorance" has an even broader use as a pejorative. However, we still have need of the original usage.

In conversation, the intended meaning of "ignorance" is easily understood by tone of voice. In written English, we probably have to bend over backward to make the meaning clear.
 
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Well, I know when it's appropriate to cease beating an expired equine.

Indeed. It's when you're no longer into flagellation. necrophilia and bestiality.


Richard English
 
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Chiming in for a round. I have to side with RE in this discussion. "Ignorant" is a necessary and important word in its 'original' (or shall we say etymological) sense.

Thank you, bethree. In your own view, would you feel that the word is more or less emotive in US English compared with UK English? Or is it maybe the same?

Oh, forgive me if you've already told me, but will I be meeting you and yours in Columbus next May?


Richard English
 
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Interesting question, RE. My experience is idiosyncratic, though perhaps typical of posters here. I was raised in a family of academics who pride themselves on precise use of the language. My mother in particular (whose clan it was) can always best be interpreted "literally" in her use of words. It has always been my understanding that ignorant means without knowledge, and that tone of voice or written context indicates the speaker's or writer's attitude toward that lack of knowledge.

Sadly I cannot count on visiting Columbus or anyplace else for a couple more years. My eldest has a chronic illness which showed its face about 4 yrs ago & strikes unpredictably, which makes us nervous about going anywhere. At the time of Wordcrafters' get-together, he will have been home from his nearby college for 2 wks, & we will be beginning some medical assays.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Ignorance is discussed in depth here:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2599954293614654567
 
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The personification of ignorance and apathy . . .. ... ..... "I don't know and I don't care."
 
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http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2599954293614654567

Interesting and informative, Asa! However, the word "ignorant" was used only once that I heard, as part of the definition "WILLFULLY ignorant." The video's subject was actually "Stupidity." Many definitions of stupidity were suggested, and they seemed to fall within two groups:
(1) ignorance that "shouldn't be", i.e., no excuse for it; the information is right in front of one's nose.
(2) ignorance that "cannot be helped" because of the subject's state of mental impairment.

I maintain that the word "ignorance" alone conveys no inflection as to inclination, ability, or obligation to know. It simply says you don't.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Welllll, see how stupidly ignorant I am? Roll Eyes
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
I would appreciate learning of a single-word synonym for "lacking in knowledge" that does not carry its possible negative connotations.


well, I'm coming *really late to this party, but I would suggest 'uninformed' -- and if they're being a really uninformed pedant about something (foisting incogitable information on us), then it would be 'ill-informed'! [still less pejorative than "you ignorant doofus."]
 
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Originally posted by Asa Lovejoy:
Welllll, see how stupidly ignorant I am? Roll Eyes


Tsk, tsk. Big Grin

My favorite part of the youtube video was the explanation of "Idiot." French philosophers supposedly coined this term, which posited a "state pre-cognition and knowledge, prior to language-- a clean slate." Apparently this state needed to exist in order to facilitate philosophical inquiry into the nature of knowledge.

I am thinking perhaps we may holler "Idiot!" out car windows without guilt, since it is not really insulting.. sort of sweet, actually. Wink
 
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Tsuwm makes a great suggestion. "Uninformed" works quite well.

While I can understand where Bethree and Richard are coming from, I guess, I find it odd to cling to a meaning that has evolved since 1886. Here is that OED cite:
quote:
1886 R. E. G. COLE Gloss. Words S.W. Lincs. 71 Ignorant, ill-mannered. 1886 F. T. ELWORTH West Somerset Word-Bk. 363 Ignorant, wanting in manners. The usual description of a rough, uncouth lout.
Interestingly, though, the next citation is from 1946.

Communication isn't just one-way. When one uses a word, no matter how educated that person is, he/she must consider how that word will be interpreted. I sometimes find that highly intellectual people can be poor communicators. Isn't communication the whole point of using words? What good is it if you hare highly educated on the correct use of words if people don't understand you? I imagine that's why our dictionaries evolve with language and don't just stick to the older definitions.

I am wondering, Bethree and Richard, do you also take this stand on other words that have evolved? I know that Richard does with "gay." What are other examples? I think this is a fascinating discussion. When I think about it, perhaps we all have our word idiosyncracies, and this is one of yours. I know that arnie, for example, doesn't like the evolution of "moot." I suspect that's what's going on here.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
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I have a suggestion for an experiment to find out what the general public think. Anyone can try it.

1. Go on a pub crawl.

2. In each pub choose one person that you don't know and stroll up and say, "You are ignorant."

3. Assess whether they have taken this to mean lacking knowledge or to be an insult by whether or not you get punched in the mouth.

4. At the end of the evening count up your bruises. If a majority of encounters resulted in a bruise then the majority of the general public think it's insulting.

Out of respect for my own skin I'll pass on this experiment but anyone with the courage of their convictions shouldn't be afraid to try it.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I think Bob's right in his assessment of the general public's use. However, if you add a preposition, and say, "You are ignorant of such-and-such," the reaction will be to "ignorant" as meaning "without knowledge of," and you're much less likely to get clobbered.
 
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In each pub choose one person that you don't know and stroll up and say, "You are ignorant."

If you go up to any stranger and use a word out of context then you're likely to get an extreme reaction.

I actually asked my training group today about this, when we discussing word meanings and they, to a man (actually they were mainly women), all agreed that "ignorant" meant lacking in knowledge. To be fair they were all professional people - managers of business travel management companies - and their response would not necessarily be typical of the average man in a pub in the West Midlands.

I accept that words evolve and agree that it is now difficult to use "gay" to mean other than homosexual or "intercourse" to mean other than sexual congress and I now avoid those words in other than their developed meanings. But I don't think that the word "ignorant" has changed universally - although I accept that it seems to be moving that way.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Tsuwm makes a great suggestion. "Uninformed" works quite well.
Communication isn't just one-way. When one uses a word, no matter how educated that person is, he/she must consider how that word will be interpreted.


I actually agree completely with you, Kalleh. That's why I said, "It has always been my understanding that ignorant means without knowledge, and that tone of voice or written context indicates the speaker's or writer's attitude toward that lack of knowledge. Because its original meaning has broadened to include pejorative connotations (albeit 2nd or 3rd dictionary definitions), it behooves the speaker/ writer to make the meaning clear with ample context.

"Uninformed" seems a good substitute, needing less in the way of careful handling. Strangely, though, this word was abused far more by my late and dear, academically-snobby great-uncles, especially in the midst of a contentious cocktail hour. An imperious, "You are uninformed, sirrah!" was sure to bring one's brother (who was expected to be au courant at all times) to his knees.
 
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Does anyone here have easy access to a corpus linguistics database?
I'd be willing to make a small wager that if we eliminate the "ignorant of" construction mentioned earlier and restrict ourselves to, say, the last twenty years, the "ill-mannered" meaning is far more common than the "lacking knowledge" meaning but I'd need a database and the access tools to prove it.

Of course having proven it I'd then be faced with the "just because the majority do it, that doesn't make it right" argument to which there is, of course, no counter.
 
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All of us have easy access to a Corpus linguisics database. This is one of more than a million ghits for "corpus linguisics database" on Google.
 
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"corpus linguisics [sic] database"

You get zero ghits if delimited by double quotation marks. Six if you correct the typo. Professor Davies at BYU has a list of corpus databases. The top two, with 100 million words each, are for UK and US English respectively.

[Corrected subject-verb concord in final sentence.]

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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As a reliable corpus linguistics database Google is rather flawed. It presents only the internet subset of information whereas I'm primarily interested in spoken usage. As you go backwards in time its use becomes more restricted because there is less from ten years ago than from last year and less from twenty years ago than from ten years ago. It's clumsy to use as I'd need to work out my search terms (for example "ignorant -'ignorant of' -'ignorant about'") then I need to open each and every page, scan the document for the word and decide and tabulate the results.
This would consume far more time than I have. What I'd like is a rather more scholarly database, preferably of transcriptions of spoken English rather than written English, with the tools to list solely the section of text containing the word (say ten words each side) so that it is possible to scan and identify the usage in a large number of examples in a sensible time frame.

That said, when I get time I will give Google a try. Right now though its 00:56 and I have to be up to got to work in five and a half hours so I'll bid you "Goodnight."
 
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I did some preliminary searches in the UK English DB, (in which you can specify register as a search criterion). Their results are pretty much what one would expect: spoken English, almost universally pejorative, academic English mainly neutral.

[Correct a typo.]

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Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Ohhhhh, you're a mean one, Mr Zmj! Wink
 
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quote:
if you add a preposition, and say, "You are ignorant of such-and-such," the reaction will be to "ignorant" as meaning "without knowledge of," and you're much less likely to get clobbered.
Asa, I agree. I have been thinking about this discussion all day, and I was going to post this very comment. However, this is what Richard said, and I'd not agree in this instance:
quote:
Those of us from the Sceptred Isle doubtless had a quiet smile at this transatlantic ignorance..."
This use of it is another story. Richard, I think if an objective person came to your class (not the instructor) and presented that statement, they'd consider it insulting. I mean, I could pose the question on my conference call tomorrow, but would you trust the answer? I doubt it, and you'd be right.
 
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Why not try it?

And I agree about the difference between spoken and written English. There are many words that will create a different reactions when they are heard from when they are read. There are so many differences between the way in which the brain processed heard and visualised information that it would be surprising if that were not the case.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Originally posted by zmježd:
"corpus linguisics [sic] database"

You get zero ghits if delimited by double quotation marks. Six if you correct the typo. Professor Davies at BYU has a list of corpus databases. The top two, with 100 million words each, is for UK and US English respectively.


Thanks for that link zm. I've only looked at the first one on the list for about two minutes so far but I have a feeling it will be helpful to me in all sorts of ways besides this discussion.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
quote:
if you add a preposition, and say, "You are ignorant of such-and-such," the reaction will be to "ignorant" as meaning "without knowledge of," and you're much less likely to get clobbered.
Asa, I agree... this is what Richard said, and I'd not agree in this instance:
quote:
Those of us from the Sceptred Isle doubtless had a quiet smile at this transatlantic ignorance..."
... This use of it is another story. ...


These quotes exemplify some of the finer points that render usage neutral or pejorative. The first example refers to a specific situation involving one person. It lacks the broad brush used in the second example ("transatlantic"). But also, the very phrase 'ignorant of xyz' focuses on a single lacuna in one's knowledge. Generalization, I think, is usually the kernel of phrases taken to be insulting.

Tsuwm's recommended alternative "uninformed", though not an exact synonym, fills the bill nicely. Rather than being "unknowing", one "has not been informed." It implies perhaps a snafu in the bureaucracy somewhere, and so avoids speculation on whether one should have known something or not.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Yesterday I did a survey of my mostly poorly educated blue-collar cohorts, and they all agreed that "ignorant of" followed by a specific item was less pejorative than just declaring, "You're ignorant." So, if a lawn mower repair shop in Portland, Oregon is an accurate microcosmic representation of the zeitgeist of my area, the preposition carries a lot of weight.
 
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Why not try it?
32 of our members, on a conference call today, agreed with me. Are you surprised?

I will say, though, having known Richard for 5 years now, I do think he did not mean his post negatively. I think he meant it to mean "not knowing." So I will give him that. Still, now you've been warned Richard. Next time...I'll think you've done it to purposely insult! Wink
 
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I frequently get castigated for doing what I have not done and this is one of these instances. I DID NOT write "Those of us from the Sceptred Isle doubtless had a quiet smile at this transatlantic ignorance" as a response to Zm's comments about the "period" joke. I wrote (and please go and check it)"Those of us from the Sceptred Isle doubtless had a quiet smile.". The word "ignorance did not appear. Kalleh responded suggesting that I was having fun at the Americans' expense and I responded with: 'The quiet smile I was referring to was at Pearce's joke, not at the Americans' apparent inability to get the joke. Had I meant that I would have said something like "...Those of us from the Sceptred Isle doubtless had a quiet smile at this transatlantic ignorance..."'

The phrases I wrote was exemplar and, I agree, slightly demeaning; please check if you don't believe me.

Bob then began to comment upon the nature of the word ignorance and I contributed to that debate. We may differ as to whether or not the word "ignorance" is insulting; the fact remains the I DID NOT use the word in my description of the Americans' response to my comment. Furthermore you will see that this is not the first time in this thread that I have tried to make this point.


Richard English
 
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You are correct; I just checked. I am sorry for the misunderstanding with my quote. Still, the discussion on the meaning of "ignorance" has been interesting.
 
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Still, the discussion on the meaning of "ignorance" has been interesting.

Indeed. A fascinating thread. I still believe there is maybe a difference between the interpretation of the word that I, in the south of England put on it, than seems to be the case in some other areas. Mind you, that is probably the same with many other words.


Richard English
 
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In each pub choose one person that you don't know and stroll up and say, "You are ignorant."

That's a bit of a disingenuous example, Bob, tongue-in-cheek or not. Just to say that to someone you don't know with no prefix whatsoever, of course they're going to take it as perjorative, even if they're aware of its innocuous meaning. And even in the correct context, I'd say that 'You're ignorant' is an incorrect use of the word, as the better construction is 'ignorant of'. So deleting all uses of 'ignorant of' would of course skew the results in your favour, because people wanting to use the word as a synonym for 'stupid' aren't going to say 'You're ignorant of X', for fear that it might not be taken as the insult it was meant to be.

I don't think I've ever used it to mean 'rude or uncouth' - funnily enough I'll use 'rude' or 'uncouth' if I want to describe someone as such. 'Tosser' works pretty well too. However, as I know many people are ignorant of 'ignorant's' other valid meaning (and because 'you are ignorant of the facts' can sound insulting, in the same way that 'ill-informed' can if you use it right Wink), I tend not to use it about others unless I do actually want to insult them - usually when I'm talking about people who are wilfully ignorant because the facts don't fit in with their preconceived prejudices or something.

I use it about myself whenever I want to. If I don't know about something, I'll often say 'I'm ignorant of X'. I don't get offended.
 
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Hey, Cat, it's nice to see you back posting with us. I agree with you, though plenty of people in the U.S., when they are angry, do say, "You are ignorant!" I agree, though, that it is a questionable use of the word.
 
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Nice to see you cat. Yes my example was disingenuous but my point remains. Obviously I haven't kept records but I'd say that when the word "of" is removed, when I have heard the word ignorant it has been almost universally perjorative. Even when it is used with "of" or with the meaning of "lacking knowledge", in spoken use it has still been almost universally perjorative in that it has been attatching blame or stupidity to the lack of knowledge. I've spent some time looking at the corpus databases linked above by zm and they seem to bear this out. It is relatively neutral in written sources and almost always perjorative in spoken ones.

The fact remains that my father, my mother, my brother, my uncles and aunties, most of my friends, even me... (sic) invariably mean rude and uncouth. I simple wouldn't say "You are ignorant of", I would say "You don't know", but like all the people in the list above I would say "Don't talk with your mouth full, it's ignorant."

And that's not through ignorance of the meaning of the word, it's because that's always been the common usage among almost everyone I've ever known.
 
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quote:
"Don't talk with your mouth full, it's ignorant."



huh.. in the Midwest (U.S.) I invariably hear, "Don't talk with your mouth full, it's rude."

edit: well, okay, maybe occasionally I hear "ill-mannered." : )
 
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I heard it was impolite.
 
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In California it is soooooo gross.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:
Originally posted by neveu:
In California it is soooooo gross.

Especially when someone cracks a joke and the talking becomes laughing annnnd....

Why hasn't "uncouth" been mentioned? For that matter, why did "couth" disappear as a stand-alone term? I suppose we still have it in "can," or "could," but it's not quite the same.
 
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Bob, does ignorant (not with the "of") sometimes mean rude or uncouth in England? It wouldn't in the U.S., as far as I know. Here "you're ignorant" would mean that you're stupid.
 
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It does in common usage where I live.
 
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Where have all the hyphens gone?

Anyway, um, I have heard Americans North of the Mason-Dixon, East of the Mississippi, say things like "They're just a bunch of ignorant rednecks; ignore them." Whereas you'd be more likely to read of "ignorance and poverty"--no insult intended; just pity--in a book or magazine.

I'm sure we Americans use "ignorant" as an insult in spoken language. The difference between us and the Brits is that we usually modify it with something colorful like "bastard" or "redneck." Or in arguing politics with a relative, an American might say, "Oh, shut up. You're just ignorant." What we don't use is a naked "You're ignorant."

Am I the only one who remembers the great Point-Counterpoint bit with Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin on Saturday Night Live where Curtin, would go into a long, learned spiel about some social problem, and Akroyd would reply, "Jane, you ignorant slut!"

Wordmatic
 
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But, Wordmatic, we don't use it to mean "uncouth" or "rude," do we? Don't we only use it to mean "stupid?"
quote:
Or in arguing politics with a relative, an American might say, "Oh, shut up. You're just ignorant." What we don't use is a naked "You're ignorant."
How do the 2 differ? Isn't the first use of "ignorant" a naked use, too?
 
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Guess I didn't read every word of the preceding debate! Yes, I do think, depending on the context, there can be a tinge of "uncouth" and "rude" in those uses of ignorant, though only a tinge. In fact, there can be whatever insult you like inferred as overtone. "Jane, you ignorant slut" seems to me to mean, "Jane, you insufferable, patronizing bitch!" That's the opposite of "you rude, uncouth ignoramus." But if I heard somebody say "you great, blundering, ignorant idiot," I certainly would think the person was being called "uncouth and rude" as well as insensitive and stupid.

It's sort of comparable to the American and British uses of "common." When we say "common," we mean "ordinary," and "everyday," whereas the British mean the person is some kind of lowlife scum-of-the-earth.

Wordmatic
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:
Originally posted by wordmatic:

It's sort of comparable to the American and British uses of "common." When we say "common," we mean "ordinary," and "everyday," whereas the British mean the person is some kind of lowlife scum-of-the-earth.

Wordmatic

WM, you remind me of the uses of "lay." I spent over twenty years servicing/repairing British cars, and was always amused to see the term, "lay shaft" in reference to the gearbox part we in the US call a "cluster shaft." To me, "lay shaft" sounded like a penis. Eek
 
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It's not hard to imagine that a person who is rude or uncouth is lacking in manners and, therefore, ignorant. Look at these entries from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

rude c.1280, "coarse, rough" (of surfaces), from L. rudis "rough, crude, unlearned," perhaps related to rudus "rubble." Sense of "ill-mannered" is from c.1386. Rudesby "insolent, unmannerly fellow" is from 1566. Rude boy (also rudie, for short) in Jamaican slang is attested from 1967. Fig. phrase rude awakening is attested from 1895.

uncouth
O.E. uncuð "unknown, uncertain, unfamiliar," from un- (1) "not" + cuð "known, well-known," pp. of cunnan "to know" (see can (v.)). Meaning "strange, crude, clumsy" is first recorded 1513. The compound (and the thing it describes) widespread in IE languages, cf. L. ignorantem, O.N. ukuðr, Goth. unkunþs, Skt. ajnatah, Armenian ancanaut', Gk. agnotos, O.Ir. ingnad "unknown."

ignorant
c.1374, from O.Fr. ignorant, from L. ignorantia, from ignorantem, prp. of ignorare from in- "not" + Old L. gnarus "aware, acquainted with," from Porot-L. suffixed form *gno-ro-, related to gnoscere "to know" (see know). Form influenced by ignotus "unknown." Cf. also see uncouth. Colloquial sense of "ill-mannered" first attested 1886. Ignorance is attested c.1225, from O.Fr. ignorance, from L. ignorantia.

Notice a common thread running through these definitions?
 
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Interesting, Tinman. That's a nuance of ignorant that I hadn't realized.
 
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quote:
It's sort of comparable to the American and British uses of "common." When we say "common," we mean "ordinary," and "everyday," whereas the British mean the person is some kind of lowlife scum-of-the-earth.

The word has many meanings here, of which only one - that of being rather poorly educated or bred - is derogatory. In addition to "everyday" the word can also mean frequently occurring and can also describe a particular piece of land - a meaning that I suspect is quite unknown in the USA. Details here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons

It can also be used to describe one of our Houses of Parliament (the other being The Lords).


Richard English
 
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Actually, we do have some of those other meanings for "common" besides "ordinary," except for the one meaning "of low estate." Small towns in New England particularly may have a town commons, and in many townhouse complexes, owners of individual units pay an association fee to support the upkeep of the common ground, the part of the property owned by all of the homeowners in the development.

When we join together with others in a cause, we make common cause--that is the same on both sides of the pond too.

Just some of the commons we have in common.

WM
 
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My old Granny (born 1885)was quite particular about keeping her fences in good repair lest they fall down and her property be "on the commons".
 
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Aren't a few of the states in America actually Commonwealths?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Yes. Kentucky and Massachusetts are.
 
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