How mean!

Discussion in 'English Only' started by vost, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. vost Senior Member

    France
    France, Français
    On YouTube, one guy posted a comment on a funny commercial saying LOL! How mean!
    What does How Mean! means?
     
  2. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Mean" generally means "hurtful" in AE. But other regions might understand it as "stingy."
     
  3. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    What was the commercial about, Mr.Vost? I mean, what happened in it?
     
  4. vost Senior Member

    France
    France, Français
    I would have post a link but I think I remember they are forbidden here...

    It's about an car insurance company. the Commercial shows a woman ruining a wall with a drill while trying to anchor a picture on it. At the end, a text written on the screen says <brand name> car insurance. Because your wife uses the car too.
     
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    In that case, it definitely means unkind.

    The advert is being rude about women drivers.
     
  6. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    :thumbsup:
     
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hopefully ewie can back me up on this but 'mean' does not have the same meaning as 'stingy' around here, stingy is a totally different thing. Can you describe in a bit more detail what it means in AE so I can understand it better?
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Interesting, Alex - for me, 'stingy' is certainly one meaning of 'mean': see the second adjective definition in the WRF dictionary.

    In the present context, though, 'mean' must indicate 'unkind'.
     
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hmm, this is my understanding of stingy.... not willing to spend money, someone who is very cheap, hates to part with their money, a stingy person would leave a 'miserly tip' ...
    But this (to me) isn't synonymous with 'mean' as in unkind/nasty, though I can see how it's related to being 'unkind' as 'unhelpful' ... mean is just a nastier word in my opinion.

    When we're at a quiz machine in a pub and someone hasn't put in their fair share of 50p's, I might say "Come on don't be so stingy!" I would never say 'mean', as it has a nuance of nastiness to it, wheras stingy doesn't...

    If I was to imagine a different situation, let's say a rich holidaymaker snarling at someone trying their hardest to sell something to tourists, that person would be stingy, and they would also be a bit mean, but I view this as two separate things at the same time, he is stingy, and he is mean, two indpendent things..... I use 'stingy' quite a lot without any meaning of being 'mean' so I can't really say it contains this... well.... nuance.
     
  10. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    As is the case for Loob, Alex, mean often means 'stingy' for me. (I'm fairly certain I wouldn't use mean = 'stingy' to a child, though ~ I'd say mean pretty much always means 'unkind' for kiddies. I'm not saying you're a child, Alex, though you are young enough to be Loob's great-great-grandson).
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I'm thinking from the starting point of "stingy", it has no meaning of being 'mean'.. but of course what the word 'stingy represents can fall under an umbrella meaning of 'mean' ... but that word alone by itself doesn't contain a nuance of nastiness, right?

    Would that make more sense to you?

    If you are mean you can be stingy (stingy = submeaning)
    If you are stingy you can be mean (again = submeaning)
    If you are mean you are nasty
    If you are stingy you don't have to be nasty...

    I'm not sure if that helped my clarification or not:p !
     
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Alex, though ewie has - as so often - gone too far:mad:
    I think he's right that there's an age-related thing going on here...

    For me, someone can be mean with money (= stingy) without being mean in the sense of nasty.
     
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's probably correct, I would understand 'mean with money' to be stingy, and also possibly without a sense of nastiness innate to the action, but I'd nearly always opt for stingy..

    Interesting discussion.
     
  14. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I first learned the "stingy" meaning of "mean" on a train to Edinburgh when the gentleman sitting next to me asked, in his wonderfully unmistakable accent, "Do Americans think Scotsmen are mean?" I didn't immediately take his meaning, and asked him for clarification, whereupon he said that he meant "stingy." I doubt that many other Americans would have this meaning in their repertoire.
     
  15. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Count me in your group:)
     
  16. Cypherpunk Senior Member

    Springdale, AR
    US, English
    Hmm. I agree with the 'not used that way over here' part of the thread.
    Didn't mean also signify poor in Shakespeare's time? There are several references to mean people in his plays. Could the stingy meaning have come from the poor meaning, or does it still mean poor, as well?
     
  17. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
    mean (adj.) "low-quality," O.E. gemæne "common, public, general, universal, shared by all," from P.Gmc. that of "stingy, nasty" first recorded 1665; weaker sense of "disobliging, pettily offensive" is from 1839, originally Amer.Eng. slang. Inverted sense of "remarkably good" (i.e. plays a mean saxophone) first recorded c.1900, also in phrase no mean _______ "not inferior" (1596, also, "not average," reflecting further confusion with mean (n.)). Meanie "cruel person" is from 1927.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009

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