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A denotation is the objective, largely agreed-upon meaning of a word that can be found in the dictionary, while a connotation is the subjective, personal meaning of a word. But paradoxically, neither are necessarily correct or incorrect.
Denotation: If you’re a Scrabble or Boggle player, there’s a good chance you’ve called someone out on making up a word. And in some cases, much to your surprise, you found out that the word existed in the dictionary. You had no prior knowledge of the word, but it was there all along, so you can’t really say that it was false. Oh, and you were probably penalized in the game for accusing others of making things up.
Connotation: There’s a good chance you’ve read a sentence in an article or a book, and even though you knew that some words were used incorrectly, the meaning still came across. Nothing was missing in your understanding or interpretation of the sentence. Was the sentence structure incorrect in some way? It probably was, but it didn’t impede your ability to grasp it, so that makes it true. The author or editor may have made a mistake, but the message still took root in your mind.
In this episode of The Question podcast, you will hear highlights from David Andrew Wiebe’s presentation on “Words – Beacons of Creative Power or Mere Devices of Communication Part II”, as well as the music of Elliot Lorne Wyman.