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A question was asked about ranking the strength of the synonyms of 'beautiful'.

It was closed very quickly as 'Primarily Opinion Based'.

I think this is misguided. Questions about nuances of words are about as on-topic as possible here.

Explanations of word nuances can very easily be objective. They are explained and then people can agree with the factual content or not. That's not the same as opinion.

It's not asking about people's opinions, whether they like a word or not, they are asking for an objective comparison. Vagueness is not an opinion. It's a factual recognition that things aren't exact, not what one's personal preferences are.

For example, here is a scaling of determiners by how much is implied by each one:

ordering of determiners

(from https://slideplayer.com/slide/1530756/)

This ordering is substantiated by data (although it is a self report questionnaire of internal feelings):

ordering of determiners experimentally

(from Perceptions of Probability)

Not all words or concepts can be so ordered but many can and while their meanings aren't always exact, a range of the vagueness can be stated.

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    Answer upvoted but the closure is valid. Your classification will be different to mine, a 50-something-year-old living in Italy, as mine will be different from a 16-year-old boy living in Cork, Ireland or a 70-year-old retired female writer living in Perth, Australia. It's subjective and it's only going to invite a multitude of answers consisting of lists. IOW the question is not that great. – Mari-Lou A Jul 1 at 14:04
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    The OP is also asking for the order, not even the nuances or the appropriate settings and contexts. What about slang? Are you going to ignore those? Someone who is "smoking hot" or "drop dead gorgeous"? – Mari-Lou A Jul 1 at 14:07
  • Last comment, in 4 years of membership the OP has not cast a single vote so... they're not exactly receptive to the ethos of EL&U. What's odd is that they have 100 rep yet they seem to have only one account here. – Mari-Lou A Jul 1 at 14:15
  • @Mari-LouA The OP gave three or four synonyms of 'beautiful'. It's easy enough to order those on a scale that most people can agree on (or agree that it is vague). There's no list being asked for (unlike poorly worded and answered SWRs). – Mitch Jul 1 at 14:18
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    @Mari-LouA re the OP: that they are not a common user does not mean the question isn't worth it. – Mitch Jul 1 at 14:19
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    I keep hearing the word nuances in this discussion, but for the record it is not a word OP used. His question, in his own words, seems to be "If we were to order them what would be the ordering be? Is there a natural usage in sentences?" I don't object to questions about nuances, but they need to focus much more than this one does. At the very least OP should include the words whose nuances are the source of confusion. As it stands, this is a poor question and was rightly closed. Note that this question could have been closed for other reasons as well, such as lack of research, etc. – Robusto Jul 1 at 15:27
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    I don’t think the question is beyond salvaging, but I don’t think it merits reopening in its current form. Where is the research and context that would focus the question and make it “good subjective”? What sets this apart as a question for English experts and not just a poll of native speakers? – ColleenV parted ways Jul 1 at 16:35
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    If the OP had a defined list of words they wanted to be sorted into order of popularity, I would consider that more appropriate. You would have some interesting opinions about what the source was (for example BNC vs. Twitter), but I think as it stands, it is far too open ended. The OP has not even specified what they want to describe, so you would end up with thousands of tangentially connected words being sorted arbitrarily by everyone. – marcellothearcane Jul 1 at 20:16
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    For example, you could have 'quintessential' high on the scale for beautiful English countryside, but it wouldn't be very high on the scale for a modern high-rise tower in Dubai. – marcellothearcane Jul 1 at 20:18
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    @marcellothearcane I think if you look at my answer there, I make extremely reasonable assumptions (use the three given words and add a few more that centrally mean 'good looking', assess the strength of that, and put them all together on one scale. Of course words contain multitudes, the question is about one specific attribute, the magnitude of the central feature. Are you suggesting that the magnitude is different for everybody and it doesn't roughly follow a certain order? If so, that's an objective statement about those words (which of course I'd hope you'd support with data). – Mitch Jul 1 at 21:35
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    @Mitch You are making the assumption that the OP's three words can be ranked in some sort of order. Personally (native British English speaker) I don't think "comely" and "beautiful" are describing the same quality at all. Beauty is a matter of aesthetics. Comeliness is not. – alephzero Jul 1 at 22:03
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    This may possibly be a case of a poor question that will be redeemed by a brilliant answer, but I don't see a speck of evidence for this so far. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 1 at 22:48
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    In a comment, the OP asked: Is there difference between 'charming and comely' and 'lively and beautiful'? @Mazura then vote to keep it reopen. I exercised my "privilege" to cast a vote. – Mari-Lou A Jul 2 at 4:12
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    reopened, plus four hours: close vote #2. At this time, the OQ has been viewed by a measly 113 people (and this by 80). Where are we going with this war, people? Let's see some edits. (see that's the problem; we're solely relying on people to do something that a site mechanic should be helping us with). The way SE was built to handle this is with edits, and I don't see that happening. For me it's because I have little interest in this specific question. But I'll jabber on all day about SE politics (which imo are supposed to set prerogatives, not tailored answers). – Mazura Jul 2 at 6:31
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    We now need another round of reopening votes..... – user067531 Jul 3 at 4:41
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You say:

It's not asking about people's opinions, whether they like a word or not, they are asking for an objective comparison. Vagueness is not an opinion. It's a factual recognition that things aren't exact, not what one's personal preferences are.

This is a tad disingenuous, I feel. You're stuffing opinion ("people's opinions") into the very small jar labeled "whether they like a word or not." That is not the only nor the entire domain of opinion. Your feeling, say, that gorgeous is a more profound or marked expression of beauty than beautiful, or that you can rank all the synonyms of beautiful that you can pull out of a hat, is absolutely an opinion.

You seem to have created a great big Pentecostal tub-thumping show here for a rather poor question. I don't dispute that nuances of word meaning are real and can be discussed objectively (sufficient to this site, let us say), but I really don't see why you are devoting all that effort and attention to a lazy, profoundly unnuanced candidate, which on the main site would be seen for a "gimme da codez" question without a second glance.

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    As is typical on this site, people spend lots of effort on writing good answers to poor questions, and feel their answers warrant the questions remaining open. Which isn't how the site operates. It doesn't even prevent their answers from being read and upvoted! – curiousdannii Jul 2 at 4:22
  • Re 'gimme da codez'. There is a great possibility that the question was asked in a poor manner and difficult for the OP to recover from that (for many possible reasons, mostly imagined). But that is ad hominem, and the idea of the question is certainly a good one, and hasn't been done before. Re stuffing opinion, then if a comparison is opinion, then all definitions themselves are 'absolutely an opinion'. Re pentecostal, I think I wrote a good answer and don't want it to go away and I'm following up on issues people bring up. – Mitch Jul 2 at 13:22
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    @Mitch: As I said to you in chat, if you think the idea of the question is a good one—which seems like you're conceding this particular question's limitations—then why not ask it yourself as a good question? Or else edit this one so that it can be answered without reservation? – Robusto Jul 2 at 13:34
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    @Robusto I considered the many suggestions and edited yesterday. It was rolled back. – Mitch Jul 2 at 14:30
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    As to disingenuity, I am entirely sincere on the issue of vagueness vs opinion. – Mitch Jul 2 at 14:32
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    @Mitch the edit was not rolled back, and I am heartily fed up with people who make misleading statements (you're not the only one). The edited title was not changed, your rephrasing was left virtually intact, I only deleted two terms which the OP never mentioned: "cute" and "pretty" See edit history english.stackexchange.com/posts/503601/revisions – Mari-Lou A Jul 2 at 17:49
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    @Mitch: Vagueness vs. opinion? I don't see those two things forming a proper dichotomy. Either can partake of both, and to any degree. – Robusto Jul 2 at 18:15
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    @Robusto I think you'll accept that word meanings aren't always exact (outside of technical stipulated terms (and even then there is slippage)), they have semantic ranges. Vagueness is objective. Opinion is subjective. Yes they overlap in other ways. Chat if you need more. – Mitch Jul 2 at 19:15
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    @curiousdanni As usual, you're making up the rules and the purpose of the site to suit your own whims. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 3 at 7:36
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    @Araucaria I don't know what you're talking about. I haven't made up any rules. – curiousdannii Jul 3 at 8:11
  • Making up rules is what Meta is for. Overly long discussion about what to do with a specific question is what moved to chat is for. +1. For this Q there's nothing more to say; only things to do : edits... because this meta isn't a feature request asking for an everlasting solution to the ever-present problem. And I'm not talking about close-wars or edit-wars, but the quest for better signal/noise ratio (keeping out the riffraff) which this site still does completely manually, unlike Skeptics or Worldbuilding, where dealing with 'crap' is a full time job. – Mazura Jul 3 at 15:26
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On the so-called data:

The quality of the 'data' in the first chart is highly dubious. For example, the determinative every is listed as going with uncountable nouns. This, of course, is clearly wrong because every inherently considers a group as a number of individual things. Whilst it can occur with nouns that are often used with uncountable meanings, it can only be used with these when they are being used in their countable senses.

Secondly, it compares proportional terms with purely quantative ones. So for example, most tells us about a proportion not a quantity. Most might refer to three people out of five, but nobody would argue that three was many. Many on the other hand tells us about quantities but nothing about proportions.

The last point on the usefulness of the data presented by the OP here, notice that the data from the first diagram, which contains items like any, few, most and much, does not apply to the second diagram, which compares items like dozens, scores and hundreds. The two do not compare like for like terms.

On beauty:

Whereas the quantitative semantics of functional determiners is often fixed—so, for example, several must mean more than two, and most must mean more than 50%—the meanings of terms such as easy-on-the-eye or picturesque have no pre-determined or set multal degree of beauty involved. Whilst some might agree that gorgeous is probably more beautiful than pretty, whether one views hot as implying more beauty than luscious is definitely a subjective question. In addition, the number of terms to be considered has not been specified by the Original OP. The question, even had it had some intrinsic merit, is therefore unwieldy and inevitably invites list-like answers due to the number of items potentially up for consideration. Some possible contenders include but are by no means limited to:

alluring, appealing, blossoming, charming, cunning, delightful, engaging, fascinating, glamorous (also glamourous), prepossessing, elegant, exquisite, glorious, Junoesque, lovely, magnificent, resplendent, splendid, statuesque, sublime, superb, flawless, perfect, radiant, dainty, delicate, personable, pleasant, presentable, chocolate-box, pretty(ish), desirable, dishy, dollish, foxy, hot, luscious, nubile, pulchritudinous, seductive, sexy, toothsome, hunky, studly, arresting, eye-catching, flamboyant, flashy, glossy, showstopping, showy, slick, snazzy, splashy, striking, zingy, photogenic, telegenic (mostly snarfed and barfed from Webster's)

In short, had the OP set out a limited list off say, three, different adjectives or adjectival phrases to be ranked, this might have been an unobjectionable question, had the adjectives been clearly and unobjectionably different in terms of the degrees of beauty implied. However, this is not the case.

  • Every can be used in an uncountable case, e.g. "Every day I spend my time drinking wine...". The amount of days in question is ambiguous, impossible to know. If for example it was said; "Every day of the week, I spend...", then it would be countable, as the amount of days in a week is a known fact. One could argue that because the amount of weeks in question is not known, this too is uncountable. Anyway, "every" can definitely be used in an uncountable context. – A. Kvåle Jul 3 at 17:01
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    @A. Kvale. That's not what countable means though. It doesn't mean you know how many, it means it can be individuated. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 3 at 21:00
  • Araucaria, you're right. I did some research and found out I had misunderstood the concept. – A. Kvåle Jul 4 at 22:55
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To add to this, it may be that there is no ordinal scale for beauty. To illustrate this, consider a more obvious example: countries.

You can rank countries by many measures to get an ordinal scale, for example by alphabetical order, by population, or by size.

If you'd argue that beauty isn't one-dimensional, then how would one rank words describing it? It's hard to substantiate this with examples, but it's certainly different from your perceptions of probability (though, shouldn't that be probability of perceptions?) which can be quantifiable to the real number line.

Not all words or concepts can be so ordered but many can and while their meanings aren't always exact, a range of the vagueness can be stated.

The vagueness is ill-defined, opinion-based and extensive. That might be doable for a single comparison (between two words), but many words describing beauty is too much.

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I agree it isn't opinion-based. Just because the ranking of these words will differ from place to place, age to age, it will not differ between the typical members of the different demographics. The words have different connotations, the existence of which is an objective fact, not subjective. Though, these connotations will differ from the different ages and nationalities. This only means that the one who answers will have to feature all of those different consensuses. This is an ungodly big task, and I doubt anyone would bother. Still doesn't warrant a close, although everyone is entitled to ignore the question, as it asks quite a lot.

Just to add, the definitions Google provided for the words comely and gorgeous were these:

Comely - (typically of a woman) pleasant to look at; attractive

...

Gorgeous - beautiful; very attractive

The fact that Google, a trustworthy source, defined one word as attractive and the other as very attractive shows that the words are connotatively gradable, which means they are objectively gradable.

And what does Collins Dictionary have to say about this?

Comely - A comely woman is attractive See here

...

Gorgeous - If you say that something is gorgeous, you mean that it gives you a lot of pleasure or is very attractive. See here

There most definitely is a gradation to be found. Just because the answer to something differs doesn't mean there isn't an objective answer(s). Because if those giving one answer belong to a certain classification, there only means there is a finite amount of answers, belonging to those classifications. So I believe the answer has a right to remain on this site, though I completely understand anyone who doesn't want to go through the extensive, graph-filled research required to fully answer this question.

EDIT: You will find that the dictionaries differ a bit in the definitions, as any good dictionary should, but you still see the same pattern of gradation. One word is clearly defined as stronger than the other. Merriam-Webster described comely as, among other things, not homely. MW then defined gorgeous as showily brilliant and magnificent. One is clearly superior to the other, hence there being an objective gradation.

  • What about drop-dead gorgeous (DDG)? Or absolutely DDG? Or unbelievably DDG? and so on. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 1 at 22:50
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    Then you're adding a lot of entities which doesn't just make for more connotations to take into account, but the connotations of qualifier combinations also, which propels the question into the cosmos. Luckily, the OP didn't ask about that. He asked about "gorgeous", "comely" and "beautiful". – A. Kvåle Jul 1 at 22:54
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    That is another reason not to open the question until the OP clarifies whether he means the gradations of the three words he listed, or the gradations of all the synonyms of beautiful. " In English there are many words to express beauty. Some are 'beautiful' or 'comely' or 'gorgeous'. If we were to reorder them..." What does "them" refer to? There is a very simple fix to make it clear what "them" refers to, and that fix should be made by the OP before we consider reopening the Q. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 1 at 23:01
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    I can agree there were some problems with the OP's question. But then it should be criticized and closed for those reasons, and not another reason. Because when it is then closed for that reason, it is misleading to the probably learning OP, and everybody else who stumbles upon the question. – A. Kvåle Jul 1 at 23:06
  • @ab2 Take a reasonable limit, as I did, the three the OP gave plus the obvious synonyms. Taking all possible additional adjectives is so strange? Why is that even a consideration? – Mitch Jul 1 at 23:06
  • @Mitch OK, forget DDG, which, incidentally has become a accepted word in some circles; it was Diana's favorite adjective to describe William, and it went downmarket fast. But just forget DDG. Close it as unclear, which it is. Or close it as no research shown. Is the OP out of touch? If so, edit the question to make it clear: your grounds, you really, really understand what the OP meant. This will drive sumelic and some others crazy, but not me. We need more chutzpah on ELU. :) Just don't reopen without editing.. :) – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 1 at 23:21
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    This is off-topic, but I must express my gratitude to you @ab2 for letting me know of the word "chutzpah". Always looking for new and exotic words. Is it Hebrew? – A. Kvåle Jul 1 at 23:25
  • @ab2 edited. But maybe you had more in mind? The links to definitions don't necessarily give the nuance of the ordering that most native speakers would immediately recognize (gorgeous > beautiful > cute, maybe the range of 'attractive' touches all of those) – Mitch Jul 1 at 23:30
  • @Mitch It is still not clear what "some" in the second paragraph refers to: (1) only those in the list you gave; or (2) the "many adjectives". I don't care which. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 1 at 23:43
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    @A. Kvåle: I think it is Yiddish. I'm not Jewish, but I went to a school with many Jewish students and professors, and I probably picked it up there. Also, I used to read The New Yorker, and I may have picked it up there, along with the lovely schm words; schmuck, schmatte, schmutz. And, of course, meh. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 2 at 0:32
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    Google isn't a reliable source, or a source at all really. It simply copies from other sites. I think Google takes it's definitions from Oxford Open Dictionary. – marcellothearcane Jul 2 at 5:18
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    Google is a secondary source. It takes its definitions from reliable sources, therefore, Google is a reliable source. @marcellothearcane – A. Kvåle Jul 2 at 15:03
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    @A.Kvåle I'm not sure we can be certain Google will always take information from a reliable source, and since Google results are tailored to individual users, the results a probably not repeatable. Anyway, this is tangenital, and it seems pretty opinionated, so I'll stick with 'it shouldn't be a source' and you may think what you like :) – marcellothearcane Jul 2 at 17:13
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    @A.Kvåle To be extra skeptical, we don't know exactly where or how Google's suggestion algorithms come into play; they may very well target a particular definition based on prior usage (let's say someone requests looks at lots of medical sites, then maybe the medical definitions of words gets bumped to the top). That is, you don't -know- that definitions aren't ranked yet. I don't think that's what's happening now, but it is plausible given what we know about recommendation engines. – Mitch Jul 3 at 13:14
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    Too many comments for me to read them all and check if this has already been covered. But just because "gorgeous" means more attractive than "comely" doesn't help with "gorgeous" vs "hot" vs "beautiful". If OP had listed 4 or 5 words to be sorted, which could be objectively sorted, then ok. But OP has asked for "an ordered list", which opens it up to 50 (?) words, many of which can't be objectively sorted. – AndyT Jul 5 at 10:29

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