Friday, December 17, 2010

More Discomfort or Less Comfort

"More discomfort" and "less comfort" mean the exact same thing.  So why do we choose one phrase instead of the other?  The usual answer is that "less comfort" is much easier to say or that "more discomfort" takes more time and energy to process the meaning of.  That is understandable, and I do agree with those.  But in spoken speech, both phrases are used.  So why do we say one phrase instead of the other?

From what I've seen, it hinges on the words "more" and "less".  They have different connotations.  "More" shows increasing and growth.  "Less" describes dwindling and shrinking.  (I know, no duh.)  But sometimes one meaning elucidates your point better than the other.

I woke up with a stiff neck.  I took some Advil, but it didn't help.  I had to shovel driveway before going to work, where I lifted freight that needs two people by myself. Now I'm in more discomfort than I was before.

I woke up from the best night's sleep I've ever had.  I put on my comfy shoes and headed out to work.  Of course, before I could get out of my driveway, I had to shovel it clear.  That's when I found out my comfy shoes have a sizable hole in them.  I finally got out and moved heavy crates all day.  Now I'm in far less comfort than I was when I woke up.

The difference between "more discomfort" and "less comfort" is the starting and finishing points.  When you start in discomfort, you grow to more discomfort.  When you start in comfort, you fall to less comfort.  I love that our language affords us this level of flexibility.  It is totally worth the added confusion in being able to find the words that express yourself best.  It is also worth learning the vocabulary and distinctions to be able to make use of this flexibility of language.

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