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On a BBC radio program in the late 1940s, philosopher Bertrand Russell playfully conjugated an "irregular verb" as "I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pig-headed fool."

What Russell was illustrating was the power of words to convey attitudes (connotations) as well as meanings (denotations). When readers of the New Statesman magazine were invited to submit their own connotative conjugations, they responded with enthusiasm (or, depending on your point of view, with gusto or with idiotic fervor). Here are some of the published entries:

  • I am righteously indignant; you are annoyed; he is making a fuss about nothing.

  • I am a creative writer; you have a journalistic flair; he is a prosperous hack.

  • I am an epicure; you are a gourmand; he has both feet in the trough.

  • I am sparkling; you are unusually talkative; he is drunk.

  • I am fastidious; you are fussy; he is an old woman.

  • I am beautiful; you have quite good features; she isn't bad-looking, if you like that type.

  • I day dream; you are an escapist; he ought to see a psychiatrist.

  • I have about me something of the subtle, haunting, mysterious fragrance of the Orient; you rather overdo it, dear; she stinks.

Now that I've illustrated the concept (which you might have elaborated upon, and others surely would have belabored), why not submit some connotative conjugations of your own? Simply click on the comments button below.

More Words About Words:


May 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm
(1) Barbara says:

I am masterful; you are mediocre; he can’t figure his way out of a paperbag

March 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm
(2) Elle says:

I am wonderful; you are bearable; he’s an idiot for choosing you.

June 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm
(3) Eliza says:

I am merciful, you are lenient, he is a pushover.
I am thorough and detailed, you have a tendency to give long speeches, he is a bore.
I am youthful, you are childlike, he is immature.
I have well-deserved confidence, you have a high opinion of yourself, he is arrogant.
I am attractively risqué in my clothing, you try too hard, she dresses like a tramp.
I am a thoughtful intellectual, you are pedantic, he spends his days debating the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.
I am creative, you think in unusual ways, he is a lunatic.

September 7, 2010 at 10:42 am
(4) Stefan says:

I am athletic, you are beefy, he is plump.
I am slim, you’re looking a bit haggard, she is anorexic.

February 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm
(5) Simon Stevenson says:

Eliza gets it. All three parts of each sentence should have the same meeting, but with different emotional language.

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