"send the wrong message"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 15 13:40:25 UTC 2011

Note especially that the "signal" or "message" in recent use is often
merely a byproduct. Often it involves an unintended, even subliminal,
quasi-Pavlovian interpretation:

"Too many of today's films send a message to kids that ultraviolence is fun."

Of course, an earlier generation would simply have used "tell." But
given the choice (which seems barely to have existed forty-odd years
ago), "tell" seems to me to imply something more apparent to any
ordinary observer, whereas "send a message" implies something more
oblique and perhaps less conscious.

Or is it a distinction with no more than a stylistic difference?


On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 9:21 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "send the wrong message"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Oh, it's simplified enough--I just lack the antennae for reception. The
> eyes say "yes" but the nose says "no".
>     VS-)
> On 10/14/2011 9:14 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> At 10/14/2011 09:07 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>>> OK, let me simplify it further--"receiving mixed signals" means being
>>> unsure of intent, irrespectively of whether any actual indications,
>>> tokens, facts, qualities, signs or symbols have been actually
>>> transmitted. "Sending mixed signals" means that someone is "receiving
>>> mixed signals" in that same sense. No signals--strictly a metaphor!
>> If the recipient is unsure of *intent*, some information must have
>> been received.  That is the "signals".  Is that simplified enough for you?
>> Joel
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