a damning picture vs. a murky picture

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"A damning picture" or "a murky picture", which would be better in this context?

A damning picture, though condemnable and a bit dirty-mouthed, is still hopeful; while a murky picture, though clean in language, appears to spell daunting hopelessness. Nevertheless, Google Ngram shows both usages are very close in their frequencies:

The question of this thread is about the meaning of "a damning picture": Is my understanding of it above correct?

Stress, anxiety, harassment: huge survey reveals pressures of scientists’ working lives
Global study highlights long hours, poor job security and mental-health struggles.

A survey of more than 4,000 scientists has painted a damning picture of the culture in which they work, suggesting that highly competitive and often hostile environments are damaging the quality of research.

Source: Nature 15 JANUARY 2020
Stress, anxiety, harassment: huge survey reveals pressures of scientists’ working lives
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  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    No. In this case damning is not "dirrty-mouthed" or even related to swearing.
    Damn has other meanings
    damn /dæm/ v. to condemn as a failure:The critics damned the new play.
    Damning is even more specific
    damn•ing (daming, damning), adj. causing incrimination:damning evidence.
    Damning evidence is the kind that will lead to conviction of a criminal. In the OP, the survey provided evidence proving "the culture was hostile...."


    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Damning evidence that condemns a criminal is often very clear: There is damning evidence for John's guilt: his fingerprints on the gun, the victim's blood on his shirt, and the security footage of him going into the building and then leaving a few minutes later, waving the gun in the air.
    'Condemn' and 'damn' have the same Latin origin.
    Murky evidence, or a murky picture, is unclear, as if it were scenery viewed through smoke, fog, or in dim light.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    The uses of "damn" which are "dirty-mouthed" (in your words) are those which are related to the interjection "God damn" because "God damn" violates the commandment "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Most people consider this pretty mild but the group One Million Moms has been making some fuss recently over a Burger King commercial containing the "d-word."
    Conservative 'Moms' group slams Burger King for using 'the d-word' in a commercial
    Activist conservative group One Million Moms is taking aim at Burger King for using what it calls the "d-word" in a commercial promoting the non-meat Impossible Whopper.
    In the ad, a group of people taste-test the plant-based patty that has been a hit for the fast-food company. With a mouthful of food, one man says, "Damn, that's good."


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Those two have opposite meanings. A murky picture means there is no unequivocal evidence to describe the situation. Some evidence points one way, some another.

    A damning picture means there's a lot of evidence all pointing in the same direction. And of course damning implies the direction is toward bad things.
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