Sunday, 8 May 2016

tool v weapon

Another book title

What I like here is the ancillary relation between tool and war.  That is to say, putting tool and weapon into parallel structures with conventional opposites war and peace means that we treat them as opposites as well, when otherwise they're in a hyponym relation. That is to say, logically/usually weapon is a type of tool not an opposite to it. If I that-is-to-say enough, I eventually get to English.

Or, another way to think of it is that maybe tool has two senses, one which is a hyponym of the other. One means 'instrument used to commit some act' and the other means 'instrument used to build things' or something like that. In that case it's the second meaning that it opposite to weapon.

I'd vote against two senses, and say that we interpret whether tool is a positive or negative thing according to context. Does it lean toward positive connotations? Well, when I look at the nouns that occur after tool of, they're telling me that tool does not have positive vibes. These are from the Corpus of Contemporary American English:

There are just as many tool of war and tool of oppression as there are tool of diplomacy and tool of empowerment.  So, tool doesn't seem to have strongly negative or positive associations. But it seems positive when it's put with peace and opposed to weapon in the book title.

As long as I'm writing about positive/negative associations, I'll just mention something else I saw today.  I can't remember what it was advertising (something local), but it said something like We put the taste in tasty. And that made me think how different a slogan we put the smell in smelly would be. (It's likely that smelly is interpreted negatively and tasty positively because we use smell to select the things we'll taste.  So we tend to experience good tastes because the bad ones have already been weeded out at the smell stage.)

(Thanks to Jesse Sheidlower for retweeting the above tweet.)

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