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  • Topic

    to difference

    Merriam-Webster has "to difference" as an unmarked verb meaning "to differentiate, distinguish sth."
    Examples: people who cannot difference God's will from their own selfish desires and prejudices

    Is this really a valid synonym of "to distinguish or differentiate sth." and used in everyday language or is it formal, literary or even outdated?
    AuthorIlldiko (763882) 10 Nov 12, 16:37
    Merriam-Webster often accepts something that one fool somewhere once said (in this case perhaps, said before the language became more standardized a few hundred years ago).
    #1Author Jurist (US) (804041) 10 Nov 12, 16:59
    It's not so much a question of whether it's "formal, literary or merely outdated". I don't believe it's any of those. More to the point is that it's not normal and would be considered by most people to be incorrect. You don't want to be one of those people who wave dictionaries around to justify their odd usage.
    #2Author escoville (237761) 10 Nov 12, 17:03
    So, your point is that such a verb has never existed in correct language use?
    #3AuthorIlldiko (763882) 10 Nov 12, 17:08
    #2: It's not so much a question of whether it's "formal, literary or merely outdated". I don't believe it's any of those. More to the point is that it's not normal and would be considered by most people to be incorrect.

    Agree. And #1 highlights the problem that dictionaries can be misleading for non-natives.

    EDIT: On reflection, I think "to difference" might be used in heraldry but I'd need to check that.
    #4AuthorKinkyAfro (587241) 10 Nov 12, 19:04
    How To Difference Between Arrays and Pointers in C

    How to difference Between Windows 8 and Windows RT

    Furthermore, Bloemer and Kasper (1995) have to difference between repeat purchasing behavior and brand loyalty.


    - Brian O'Higgins
    In which a Brit cannot difference between Hebrew and Gaelic, and therein finds his undoing

    Die folgende Quelle stammt aus dem Jahr 1816:

    I cannot difference this Case from the Case of bringing an Action against a Jury, for maliciously, knowingly, and on purpose to put the Party to Charges, ...
    #5Author Restitutus (765254) 10 Nov 12, 19:58
    Support #2.
    #6Author Jurist (US) (804041) 10 Nov 12, 20:44
    Zu #4:

    difference verb [with object] Heraldry
    alter (a coat of arms) to distinguish members or branches of a family.
    #7Author MiMo (236780) 10 Nov 12, 22:04
    If you click onto the first link in Resitutus' post, you're routed to a blog "gadget specs" that is apparently located in Indonesia (as far as I can figure). not make buying and selling in any form. not guarantee that the data or information that we say is 100% accurate.

    The information contained in the merely as a reference or a reference only, and are not expected for the purposes of trade, business or financial transactions or other transactions. not responsible for any errors and delays in updating the data or information, or any loss arising from actions relating to the use of data or information that we serve.
    #8Author Carly-AE (237428) 10 Nov 12, 23:37
    Ich mache mich jetzt bestimmt unbeliebt. Aber ich melde mich sowieso ab.

    Die neue Version ist zu anstrengend fuer meine Augen.

    Mir geht es wie Mattes:
    "ich hätte gerne beim Lesen eines Fadens so viel Platz für die Forum-Posts wie möglich. Dass ich dann zur Navigation wieder ganz nach oben muss, ist für mich das kleinere Übel."
    #26 Mattes (Neue Testversion)

    Die Besserwisserei nervt. Es ist besser, dass ich mich abmelde..

    RE:"something that one fool somewhere once said"

    Diesen Satz habe ich nie vergessen.
    related discussion: to get a word in edge-"wise" - zu Wort melden - #15
    " and I'd like to recommend people avoiding the pitfall of: "Never heard it - it can't exist" - a good English dictionary could have up to 100,000 words, most of which I will never have heard of...
    #15 -- odondon irl

    RE:"one fool somewhere once said"...

    To difference the English coat and make the arms peculiar to the See of Newark, a red chief (upper compartment) was added that it might bear the lunar symbol of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which Our Lady is Patroness of the United States of America and of the Archdiocese of Newark.

    To difference a coat of arms is to add a mark that distinguishes one branch of a family from other branches, usually with regard to degrees of consanguinity.

    Heraldry an alteration in a coat of arms to
    distinguish members or branches of a family.

    *V. (trans.) Heraldry alter (a coat of arms) to
    distinguish members or branches of a family. NOAD

    difference 11.Heraldry
    See cadency mark.
    Cadency mark, Haraldry - a charge* or minor heraldic difference introduced into the arms of a family to show that it is related by blood to the main branch of the family, which bears the arms as originally granted.
    Also called, brisure, difference.

    *(be charged with) Heraldry place a heraldic bearing on: a pennant argent, charged with a cross gules. NOAD

    Zum Schluss moechte ich mich bei allen AE und BE
    Muttersprachler bedanken. (especially, hm--us and Amy-MiMi). And of course, all the snails. (keep sliming) :-)
    Auch Dank an alle deutsche Muttersprachler!

    #9Authorme1 (236101) 11 Nov 12, 03:41
    If it's used in heraldry, then by all means keep it with that marking. But otherwise, I agree with Jurist, escoville, Kinky, Carly, etc. that, in my experience, it's not used in normal modern English.


    me1, maybe you're lucky if you can even use the new version; apparently it doesn't work for anyone with IE, even though that's probably the most common browser.
    #10Author hm -- us (236141) 11 Nov 12, 07:21
    RE:"something that one fool somewhere once said" (vgl. Nr. 9):

    American Heritage Dictionary:
    difference ...
    tr.v. dif·fer·enced, dif·fer·enc·ing, dif·fer·enc·es
    To distinguish or differentiate.

    Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition:
    difference [ˈdɪfərəns ˈdɪfrəns] ...
    vb (tr)
    1. to distinguish
    2. (History / Heraldry) Heraldry to add a charge to (arms) to differentiate a branch of a family

    Oxford Dictionary :
    difference Pronunciation: /ˈdɪf(ə)r(ə)ns/
    [with object] Heraldry
    alter (a coat of arms) to distinguish members or branches of a family.
       [dif-er-uhns, dif-ruhns] noun, verb, dif·fer·enced, dif·fer·enc·ing.
    verb (used with object)
    11. to cause or constitute a difference in or between; make different.
    12. to perceive the difference in or between; discriminate.
    transitive verb differenced, differencing
    to distinguish as or make different
    #11Author Restitutus (765254) 11 Nov 12, 10:03
    Restitutus is doing what I warned against in #2.

    If a foreign learner used 'to difference' in the meaning of 'to distinguish or differentiate', any native speaker (including a teacher at any level) would be perfectly justified in correcting it. If a native speaker well known for his careful use of language did the same, that would be a different matter. Such people are entitled to develop the language.
    #12Author escoville (237761) 11 Nov 12, 10:58
    To sum up, we can say that a few dictionaries (some of which not really realiable) list "to difference (between sth.)" as a synonym of "to distinguish/differentiate (between sth.)", which is considered incorrect language use by natives speakers.

    A larger number of (reliable) dictionaries list "to difference sth." (note the different syntax) as a synonym of "to alter sth." in heraldry, which seems to be tolerated by native speakers as a (rare) technical term.
    #13AuthorIlldiko (763882) 11 Nov 12, 19:59
    which is considered incorrect language use by natives speakers.

    Nicht bei allen. Siehe den wiederholten Gebrauch bei Microsoft und anderswo in der IT-Branche, wo durchaus native speakers tätig sind, etwa hier:

    Cannot difference the specified item

    Es kämen noch eine satte Zahl von Fundstellen hinzu, die ich nicht angeführt habe, z. B. diesen native speaker here:

    But hear what the apostle Paul says, 1 cor. IV. 7. "Who maketh thee to differ from another?" Men are dead in trespasses and sins, and thus cannot difference themselves.
    (Thomas Boston, 1773!)

    Some rapid tests can distinguish between A and B strains, but cannot difference the sub type.

    In the remarks section the type of sensor will be reported. A01 is a station without a precipitation discriminator, this means that the station cannot difference the precipitation, for example between water or snow.

    It cannot difference two voltages close to it own negative supply pin.

    The Turing test is a proposal for a test of a machine's ability to demonstrate intelligence . Described by Alan Turing in the 1950, it proceeds as follows: a human judge engages in a conversation with one human and one machine , each of which try to appear human; If the judge cannot difference which is which, then the machine is said to pass the test.
    #14Author Restitutus (765254) 11 Nov 12, 21:53
    Like those interested in heraldry, computer scientists/ IT types often have their own jargon. Many of them also speak (or are much influenced by) international English.

    My son took a computer programming course at a university with an international faculty. They referred to the grading of "homeworks", for which native speakers generally would use the collective homework.
    #15Author Jurist (US) (804041) 11 Nov 12, 22:18
    Zutreffend. Allerdings stammen die angeführten Zitate aus verschiedensten wissenschaftlichen Bereichen sowie aus Th. Bostons "An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion", und dieser gute Mann sprach ganz gewiss nicht "international English".

    Genauso wenig wie im übrigen John Lederer:
    As for the Red Deer we here treat of, I cannot difference the taste of their flesh from those in Europe.

    Oder gar William Spurstowe:
    ... and yet the eye which is benefited by both of them, to a
    more full and perfect discerning of its objects, cannot difference
    the rays and strictures that flow from them

    Zumindest tummelt sich die Verbform "to difference" also schon seit einigen Jahrhunderten im Englischen und beileibe nicht nur unter Bill Gates' multikulturellen Fittichen.
    #16Author Restitutus (765254) 11 Nov 12, 22:24
    As for the Red Deer we here treat of, I cannot difference the taste of their flesh from those in Europe. 
    I concede that you can find uses from more than three hundred years ago.
    #17Author Jurist (US) (804041) 11 Nov 12, 22:32
    The two in #16 are clearly archaic, and most of the ones in #14 are probably non-native speakers.

    If you prefer not to believe us, fine, that's your prerogative, just consider yourself warned.
    #18Author hm -- us (236141) 11 Nov 12, 22:59
    Bis 1938 hatte kein einziger (!) Mensch jemals einen lebenden Quastenflosser gesehen. Wie sich 1938 herausstellte, war es ein Trugschluss, diese Tatsache als Beweis seiner Nicht-Existenz (bzw.der Tatsache, dass er ausgestorben sei) zu werten.

    Bei allem Respekt für die sicherlich überdurchschnittlichen Sprachkenntnisse vieler der LEO-Teilnehmer: wenn eine Anzahl von Muttersprachlern ein Wort nicht kennt, so mag dies ein Indiz für seine Nicht-Existenz sein. Ein Beweis ist es sicher nicht. Und ganz sicher erhöht es auch nicht die Beweiskraft, wenn (potenzielle?) Verwender als "fools" abqualifiziert werden.

    Tut mir leid, aber das musste mal gesagt werden.

    Selbstverständlich mag es trotzdem sein, dass das Wort nicht existiert, aber wie schon weiter oben von jemandem angemerkt: es ist nicht wahrscheinlich, dass irgendein LEO-Teilnehmer (oder auch sonst irgendein Mensch) den kompletten Wortschatz der englischen Sprache kennt.

    (Und alle Fundstellen als Fälle von "Fachchinesisch", Computer-Lingo oder Äußerungen von "Fools" abzutun erscheint mir durchaus auch etwas fragwürdig)
    #19Author Ulrich05 (236177) 12 Nov 12, 00:55
    Some/one fool somewhere is a common idiom.

    Citing M-W: Definition of FOOL
    1 : a person lacking in judgment or prudence

    For the skeptics, just go ahead on the theory that every word in every English dictionary can be used in every situation without risk of making a bad impression on your intended audience. I thought you came to LEO to help avoid that.

    #20Author Jurist (US) (804041) 12 Nov 12, 01:05
    Re #19: Only Jurist used the word fool. In any case, if someone wishes to mimic John Lederer or William Spurstowe's style, or more generally sound like someone who lived over 300 years ago, they should certainly use difference as a verb meaning "to differentiate or distinguish". Those who want to sound like a native speaker of modern English, however, should probably avoid it, unless they are using the term in heraldry.

    Language is a system of communication that relies on symbols having a commonly accepted meaning. Of course anyone can innovate or transgress the commonly accepted meaning, but they can't do so without confusing others or at the very least drawing attention to their unusual usage. If someone wants to draw more attention to the way they say something rather than what they say, then difference is the word for them!
    #21Author Amy-MiMi (236989) 12 Nov 12, 01:17
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