Affective connotations

The affective connotations of a word can best be described as the aura of personal feelings surrounding said word. While there is no necessary agreement about how or what each word emotes, it is the existence of these feelings that enables us to use words, under certain circumstances, for their affective connotations alone, without regard to their informative connotations.

That is to say, when we are strongly moved, we express our feelings by uttering words with their affective connotations appropriate to our feelings, without paying attention to the literal repercussions they may have. In anger, we might call people dirty rats, vultures, and skunks, or alternatively lovingly call someone honey, sugar, duckie or sweetie pie. Indeed, all verbal expressions of feeling make use of the affective connotations of words to some extent.

All words have, according to the usage, some affective character. There are many words that exist more for their affective value than for their informative value: for example, we can refer to ‘that man’ as ‘that gentleman‘, ‘that individual‘, ‘that person‘, ‘that gent‘, ‘that guy‘, ‘that bloke‘, ‘that hombre‘, etc. While the person in question may be the same in all of these cases, each of these terms reveals a difference in our feelings toward him.

Dealers of knick-knacks can be found to write ‘Gyfte Shoppe‘ over the door, hoping that such a spelling carries, even if their merchandise does not, the flavour of antiquity. Affective connotations suggestive of England and Scotland are often sought in the choice of brand names for men’s suits and overcoats to imply style and sophistication: ‘Glenmoor‘. ‘Regent Park‘, ‘Bond Street‘. Sellers of perfume choose names for their products that suggest France for the traditional romantic element: ‘Mon Désir‘, ‘Indiscret‘, ‘Evening in Paris‘ – and expensive brands always come in ‘flacons‘, never bottles.

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