a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable

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salai

Senior Member
Russian
Hello,

Is it possible in the following sentence from NY Times to use the word obvious instead of palpable?

Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets.

Thank you for the time and help.
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Is it possible in the following sentence from NY Times to use the word obvious instead of palpable?

    Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets.
    I don't think so—well, possible, but not advisable. Not that the word obvious would be "wrong" in that sentence; the sentence would still be correct and would have a very similar meaning (and dictionaries sometimes give "obvious" as a synonym for "palpable"). But in my opinion, it would not be what the writer intended.

    Obvious would suggest that the rising irritation of which the writer speaks is, or should be, clear to everyone. Something that's obvious is something that's almost unnecessary to mention.

    Palpable is something a little more subtle. It refers literally to the sense of touch; in medicine, it describes something that is not apparent to the eye but can be sensed by touching, by feeling (with the fingers). Used figuratively, as here, it means that something such as an atmosphere or emotion can be strongly sensed. Even though no one is marching in the street with anti-union placards (which would make it obvious), the writer is saying one can feel that the irritation with those unions is growing.
     

    salai

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hello,
    Thanks a lot for your prompt comment!
    This year I am teaching groups of very advanced students, and they are always curious about that or another synonym, or intersting expression.
    Even now, being on the Christmas holidays, they keep sending me questions about synonyms and idioms in the English language.
     
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