1. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    What do these facial expressions mean?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MatrixGravity, May 16, 2011.

    I've never heard of these words before. I discovered them as I was reading the latest Twilight. What do these expressions mean, and what would they look like?

    1.I smiled wryly at him.
    2.His was face as benign as ever.
    3.I nodded cautiously.
    4.I gave the contents a cursory glance.
    5.He smiled apologetically.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    /first
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    1. Distaste or displeasure (which is what the expression would show.)
    2. kind and gentle or no significant effect. In this case my guess is the first one.
    3. tentative or restrained (think slowly, hesitating)
    4. hasty, quickly, superficially.
    5. It means he smiled apologetically. Sadly, I guess? Like he was sorry :p
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Please get into the habit of using a dictionary whenever you encounter a word you don't know, or even are unsure of.

    You will probably get answers here. There is no guarantee the answers are correct or complete, though.

    We should not be your primary source of basic information.
     
  5. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know, I've come across "smiled apologetically" several times in books, yet I've never actually managed to picture how one smiles that way...
     
  6. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    Whats the best way to understand words that confuse you?

    Sometimes I look up various words I come across while reading, and whenever I look them up in dictionarys, I can't seem to comprehend their meanings. Why is that? I usually have to ask somebody personally to try and explain it in their own words and then after that I eventually start to understand..
     
  7. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm, that's an interesting question, because I don't usually have that problem. =/ Because I've not been in your situation, I don't know how effective my suggestions will be, but it's all I've got.

    You might try to devote yourself to a Word of the Day subscription. Dictionary.com has a good one that will send you an email every day with a new word. That might help you practice comprehension of unfamiliar words in a very non-pressured environment and it's daily --so it might help you become used to the exercise of sorting it out from a dictionary / on your own. If you're still confused or in a situation where you don't have a dictionary or whatnot, don't be afraid to ask who you're talking to. :)

    If I'm online or have online access and come across a word I don't know, I type in "define:word" (no space between the colon and the word) on Google's search engine. It will pop up with a bunch of different definitions for a single word, and that helps me understand a particularly confusing word.

    Good luck!
     
  8. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've been studying for the GRE, which means learning a lot of vocabulary words that I've never heard before. One of the things that helped me was example sentences. The vocab book I have included them, and I'm sure most online dictionaries will offer them. Reading it in an example sentence helps clear up any confusion about how the word is used, and then you can make up your own example sentences to make sure you really understand it.

    That's what works for me, anyway.
     
  9. barnz
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    barnz Member

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    Google and dictionaries are your friend! p.s. wryly refers to ironic or dry humor, not distaste.

    But I've definitely smiled apologetically before, like "Sorry I ran over your cat" then smile. I never really thought about it, but maybe it's a way of defusing the situation.
     
  10. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I imagine a weak smile with some maintained eye contact, maybe that.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds about right. I can certainly see a smile in my mind when I read that phrase, but it is hard to describe it in precise terms.
     
  12. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    Thanks so much for the information guys. It really has helped. I will definitely try some of the suggestions that were posted. Also, I know this is slightly off-topic, but anyway, the sentences in my original post were all taken straight from the Twilight books. Do you guys think that if the author wrote "Sam smiled wryly.", Do you think that means when they film the movie the actor also has to "Smile wryly" during that exact part in the book? Probably a stupid question lol.
     
  13. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    The problem is, Whenever I look up example sentences to words I don't understand, the example sentences include OTHER words that I ALSO don't understand.

    For instance, I looked up the word "Repress" in an example sentence and this is what I pulled up.

    "It was deeply offensive that the university was giving a doctorate of law to someone who used the justice system to repress dissent."

    See what I mean? Those other words throw me the hell off and I don't even understand what it's trying to convey anymore. I wish I could find simple sentences with these words in them so I can comprehend them better.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    No, I don't. That example sentence is quite clear. What other words are "throwing you off"?
     
  15. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm a wee bit confused about that too. If there are other words that throw you off, look them up too. Learn what those words mean. Then go back to the original sentence and see if it makes more sense to you.
     
  16. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    And if you have to spend the whole day reading the dictionary that's no bad thing. :p
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Not much of a plot, but you'll really improve your vocabulary. :D
     
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  18. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    Dictionaries and thesauruses are among the most basic tools of the trade for writers. They are arguably more important than being well read to get the job done.
     
  19. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Dictionary maybe. But thesaurus? Really? Maybe I'm just missing out, as I've never used a thesaurus to write (though wouldn't admit it if I did!).

    The difference is a dictionary can help one become well read, while a thesaurus, not so much, imo, all subjective, no right answers, show don't tell, spontaneous overflow of emotion, all opinions a valid, we each find our own methods, etc.
     
  20. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Twisted in an expression of distaste, like a wince


    A benign face is a harmless face, a gentle face. A benign tumor is a tumor that lacks the ability to metastasize


    Nodding cautiously is an awful writting, an example of the -ly words that tell do not show

    When your eyes speed over the document, to see if all the lines in the Japanese Vampire application was filled out would be a cursory glance....ya dig you aint reading ya just glancin'



    an apologetic smile is used when you can not do anything about the situation if conveys a i would like to help but i can't vibe
     
  21. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Using a thesaurus can help broaden your vocabulary. Since the issue of this thread is that he doesn't have a broad vocabulary, wouldn't that help?
     
  22. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    You're right. I suppose if someone is just sitting around with a thesaurus looking to broaden their vocabulary, then it is a great tool.

    I don't think sitting with a thesaurus as one writers is a good idea, though. The best way to widen vocabulary, not only in denotative, but connotative ways, is to use that vocabulary. Reading, imo, is a form of using vocabulary (which is why a dictionary is then good, though in my opinion not even necessary if one reads enough). You learn the word, the context, how it's used, how it sounds, what style it fits into. With a thesaurus, though, novice writers just end up choosing a really 'good' word or 'big' word, but often not the 'right' word.

    For instance, I learned from reading a William Gay novel what the word 'wend' means (clear from the context, but I confirmed the word in a dictionary as well). Had I seen it in a thesaurus, I might have thought it sounded good, sophisticated, and used it. But while it fits well into a William Gay novel that has a southern gothic style, it might not fit as well in one of my many romantic comedies.

    Thesauruses often make a novice writer sound like they're playing a game of mad libs, as they may know a word, but don't exactly understand it fully. If you read enough, though, and widely, you'll eventually both know and understand words. And a good writer isn't going to use a word just because he knows the by-the-book definition, but because he understands not only what it means, but how it's used, which a thesaurus and dictionary can't really teach (though can give a false impression they have).

    But, it's all biased, right! Err, I mean it's all fanciful! Errrrr, darn thesaurus, what I mean to say is that it's all subjective.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can only ditto cog's sage advice!

    and lock up your thesaurus untill you don't need one...
     
  24. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Valid argument, I get where you're coming from. I'm just in thesaurus mode right now because the test that I'm studying for recommends using a thesaurus to help you study. ;) I do think both the dictionary and the thesaurus serve a purpose in writing, but you're right that in the hands of a new writer (or a writer with a limited vocabulary, like a non-native speaker) it could be dangerous.
     
  25. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I use thesaurii fairly often because I know a butt-load of words and their contexts and correct ways to use them... I just never can call them into my mind when I need them. :p My day-to-day vocabulary is pretty small compared to the one I can use when working at maximum brain capacity... I'm one of those annoying people who forgets words all the time then bothers everyone in a 10 mile radius until I find the word again. :p It's not like I don't know the words - I might even use them if I'm not thinking about it... But the moment I don't want to sound like a moron by using the same word (like, "small") seventy times in one paragraph, the only synonym I can think of is, "errr... Smaller?" :p

    So I loves me a thesaurus, but I agree that they should never be used for attempting to sound smarter, only so you can save space in your brain by keeping some of the information you know outside of it, leaving room for thinking about sandwiches or something. :p
     

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