kitchen table math, the sequel: Michael Weiss on 'markedly' vs 'obviously'

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Michael Weiss on 'markedly' vs 'obviously'

re: Steve H's SAT question:
The following line is from an SAT excerpt where the author really(!) dislikes the way science was being taught (in 1939).

(24) "As to the learning of scientific method, the whole thing is palpably a farce."

3. The word ‘palpably’ (line 24) most nearly means
A. empirically
B. obviously
C. tentatively
D. markedly
E. ridiculously

The answer is B.
Here's Michael Weiss:
Markedly is wrong because, notwithstanding the fact that its dictionary definition is virtually identical to that of obviously, the two words are used in quite different ways. Markedly is only used in comparisons: Today is markedly warmer, my son is markedly taller than my daughter, this question is markedly harder than the other. You would never say: My son is markedly tall or Today is markedly warm. So markedly is not equivalent to palpably in the given sentence.

Not to put too fine a point on it: Of the two choices, "obviously" is markedly a better fit than "markedly," and so it is obviously the right choice. :)


SteveH said...

I posted this in the other thread, but I'll repeat it here. The question was about meaning and I remember thinking specifically about that and not usage. Obviously does not mean palpably.

Michael Weiss said...

I don't think you can separate meaning and usage so neatly. The meaning of a word depends on how it is used, doesn't it? I think you are taking "meaning" in a sense very different than the sense in which I take it. (What does "meaning" mean?)

Catherine Johnson said...

Meaning comes from usage -- at least that's the way I think of it.

For me, meaning and usage are essentially identical **except** in cases where there is an obvious evolution in meaning going on (i.e. a change in meaning that's progressed far enough I'm aware of it...)

Have to get Katharine to weigh in.