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Be my dictionary. What is the difference between earnest and sincere, solemn and serious?

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Speaking properly

I once worked with people who hated other people ~ or so they said.  I hated broccoli (I like it now) and I hated doing my tax return.

Sometimes I loathed someone.  Or I disliked someone.

Speaking accurately

The nuances of emotional words are interesting.  We have poor emotional vocabularies as a general rule.

Understanding nuances

The other day, I dipped into  Kate Fox’ Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour.

The nuances of Englishness

Kate Fox suggests the English accept serious but not solemn and sincere but not earnest. I looked up the differences in my COBUILD dictionary that was built from a corpus of actual English usage (Collins Birmingham University International Language Database).  It wasn’t very enlightening.

Serious not solemn; sincere not earnest

So I am on the trail to distinguish solemn from serious and earnest from sincere.

Any suggestions?



  1. Jack Springbett Jack Springbett

    I did laugh at this, I’ve just reached the humour chapter in watching the English and was also stumped by this subtle difference hence me googling the term. Up until now I’d presumed they meant the same thing, I’m glad I’m not alone on this. Do report back with your findings!

  2. I still haven’t found out. But thanks Jack!

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