accuse

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cheshire

Senior Member
Japanese
The old man couldn't have been accused of lavishing his affection on the child; however, certain aspects of his conduct toward her betrayed his actual feeling of fondness.
I have difficulty with the word "accuse", since it has two very different meanings: "file a lawsuit" and "criticize". This quote is from a GRE training book, so without context.

Can you identify which meaning the verb "accuse" has, without any more context?
 
  • lercarafridi

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish
    I have difficulty with the word "accuse", since it has two very different meanings: "file a lawsuit" and "criticize". This quote is from a GRE training book, so without context.

    Can you identify which meaning the verb "accuse" has, without any more context?
    It seems to be the second meaning: although the elderly was very generous and big-hearted with the youngster, due to his demeanour or mood he occasionally proved to be harmful to her. :)
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    I have difficulty with the word "accuse", since it has two very different meanings: "file a lawsuit" and "criticize". This quote is from a GRE training book, so without context.

    Can you identify which meaning the verb "accuse" has, without any more context?
    This use of "accuse" here is ironic. We might say that someone is not 'accused' of some desirable quality: "You could not accuse him of being a generous man" is an ironic way of saying that he is mean. In your example the man was not very affectionate to the child when (presumably) that would be appropriate and desirable.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    The old man couldn't have been accused of lavishing his affection on the child; however, certain aspects of his conduct toward her betrayed his actual feeling of fondness.

    There were certainly few obvious signs of affection in the old man's behaviour towards the child, but sometimes he did things that clearly showed that he did ,in fact, love her.
    (I would have found it easier to translate this into some other language, but this is the English Only forum, you say in Arabic that you are located in Japan, and I don't speak Catholic anyway, Pax tecum A.:)).
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I certainly agree with Elwintee about the ironic usage here. I would not however say that the two usages are very different. Both usages mean to "charge with an offence", from "to call to account" (for committing some act), but of course, outside of a legal context the offence may be social rather than criminal. It was originally a legal term which has made its way into "civil" language.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks, everyone!

    The old man couldn't have been accused of lavishing his affection on the child; however, certain aspects of his conduct toward her betrayed his actual feeling of fondness.-->The old man wasn't treating the child affectionately enough; but he turned out to be a pedophiliac man.

    From the quote alone, can we read it that the man was a pedophilia?
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I refuse to think he was a paedophile! (or suffered from paedophilia)

    No, from the quote alone, you can't say that. It could have been a grumpy grandfather who always growled when he saw the child, but there was something gentle about him sometimes, that revealed he did care.

    Or... what you said.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks! (Is your avatar tomato soup?)

    I'd like to make sure

    (1) whether what the old man turned out to be was (X) that he was a pedophile; or (Y) that he was just another old man who loves their grandsons/daughters.

    (2) what does the first clause mean? (X) he usually spared his affection on the child; (Y) he usually poured his affection on the child.

    Trisia: (1)Y, (2)X
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Yes, that's how I see it. (1-Y, 2-X)

    I love your way of analysing answers. :D

    EDIT: My avatar is primordial soup :p. Kidding. Yes, I suppose it's tomato noodle soup.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Some people are not demonstrative of their feelings however strong these might be. The old man appears not to have kissed or embraced the child, possibly his grandchild or other relative. It is a sad development that these days an old man will often feel obliged to refrain from patting a child on the head or even watching children play, whilst thinking of his own now grown-up children when young or even his own childhood, for fear that he will bring suspicion upon himself. However, in this case the old man is being suspected by a fellow forero of being a child molester in spite of being apparently cold in his behaviour towards his young charge. In Dickens' works and especially in Dickens' times, such a quotation would have been taken by everyone at its face value; alas no more. O tempora, o mores!
    The word accused here has nothing more to do with a criminal charge than the French accusé when it is used to mean pronounced/clearly defined, though I am not trying to connect these variant usages in English and French.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When I first read the opening post I took it to mean that nobody could say that the old man was overdemonstrative of affection with the child, but that if you looked closely you could see he was fond of her. I took this to be an elderly relative, not given to many outward signs of feeling.

    Now that the question of paedophilia has been raised, I can see that in the court one might say that, though on the surface he did nothing to raise suspicion, if one had looked carefully one might have sensed what his true feelings were (of lust, rather than affection, implied). Even in this second case, I couldn't take accuse in its legal sense.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks!:) Let me conclude by summarizing your replies.

    The old man couldn't have been accused of lavishing his affection on the child; however, certain aspects of his conduct toward her betrayed his actual feeling of fondness.

    :cross:It couldn't be criticized that the old man did lavish his affection on the child;...

    :tick:The old man didn't lavish his affection on the child;...
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    A: You mean that old geezer is still alive? How do his grandchildren manage? The cheapskate's never given them a dime!
    B: You certainly can't accuse him of being overly generous.

    So yes, the old man did not often show signs of affection (if any). Nevertheless, some aspects of his behaviour betrayed his real feelings.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Cheshire,

    Forgive me for pointing out that we wouldn't say: It couldn't be criticized that the old man did lavish his affection on the child;... We could say It couldn't be said that the old man lavished his affection on the child;... Or we might say He couldn't be criticized for lavishing his affection on the child.

    Your impersonal expression is not idiomatic.

     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't see any sign whatever from this sentence that the old man is a paedophile. All of the words used are entirely benign.

    The first part of the sentence tells me that there is no sign, no evidence, from the old man's behaviour that he lavished affection on the child.
    The second part tells me that despite that apparent overall indifference, it was clear from some aspects of his behaviour that in fact he was very fond of her.
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    Just as a by-the-way, I can think of no time when 'to accuse' would mean 'to criticise'. If you accuse someone of an unpleasant crime it might well imply criticism, but the words are not synonymous.
     
    I don't see any sign whatever from this sentence that the old man is a paedophile. All of the words used are entirely benign.

    The first part of the sentence tells me that there is no sign, no evidence, from the old man's behaviour that he lavished affection on the child.
    The second part tells me that despite that apparent overall indifference, it was clear from some aspects of his behaviour that in fact he was very fond of her.
    Absolutely. And fond, let us remember, has nothing to do with fondling. In fact, if you are fond of the child you won't fondle it. So I would say that we not only can't infer that he was a paedophile. I would even risk saying that we can almost certainly infer he wasn't.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Absolutely. And fond, let us remember, has nothing to do with fondling. In fact, if you are fond of the child you won't fondle it. So I would say that we not only can't infer that he was a paedophile. I would even risk saying that we can almost certainly infer he wasn't.
    Careful Magda. I wouldn't say that fondling a child was a vicious activity, as you suggest. WF dictionary defines to fondle as:

    1 stroke, fondle
    touch lightly and with affection, with brushing motions; "He stroked his long beard"

    I'd hate to think one couldn't do that to a child without being thought to have improper intentions.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    if you are fond of the child you won't fondle it MagdaDH
    I agree with the rest of what you say, but this statement sounds more typical of Spartan, Tartar or Cossack childrearing methods rather than Dr Spock!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Haven't we lost sight of the fact that this thread is about the meaning of the phrase "can't be acused of", rather than about fondling children or whatever?

    As was said *much* earlier in the thread, the phrase "can't be accused of" is ironic:
    "I can't be accused of loving cheese": far from it: I'm not a cheese-lover
    "I can't be accused of posting too often on WRF": far from it: I hardly ever post on WRF
    "The old man couldn't be accused of lavishing his affection on the child": far from it, he never showed the child any affection whatsoever.

    Loob
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Haven't we lost sight of the fact that this thread is about the meaning of the phrase "can't be acused of", rather than about fondling children or whatever?

    As was said *much* earlier in the thread, the phrase "can't be accused of" is ironic:
    "I can't be accused of loving cheese": far from it: I'm not a cheese-lover
    "I can't be accused of posting too often on WRF": far from it: I hardly ever post on WRF
    "The old man couldn't be accused of lavishing his affection on the child": far from it, he never showed the child any affection whatsoever.

    Loob
    Hi Loob,

    I'd just like to be clear what you mean by ironic in this context. It's certainly not saying the opposite of what is meant, using sarcasm, a common form of irony: the person is saying that it's true that the old man couldn't be accused of lavishing his affection on the child; he showed very few signs that he liked the child. The sarcastic thing to say would be that he showed his affection very openly.

    I can't see any particular opposition between what is happening and what one might expect, or between the role someone is playing and the role he usually plays - a bank clerk is taken hostage by a gang and they give him the task of counting the proceeds of their robberies: another common meaning of irony.

    Do you mean the word in its weaker sense of an indirect criticism?
     

    LMorland

    Senior Member
    American English
    Have we lost fondle, which is derived through fond (verb) from fond (adjective), to paedophilia?
    Surely not!
    I'm afraid we have, at least in the U.S. If I read that a man was fondling a child, I would assume without a second thought that it was an act of paedophila. Sorry!

    (To indicate a proper adult-child relationship, we would say that he cuddled, or was physically affectionate with the child.)

    P.S. And Suehil, I absolutely agree with you -- I wonder who's spreading rumours that "accuse" means "criticise"!
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Have we lost fondle, which is derived through fond (verb) from fond (adjective), to paedophilia?
    Surely not!
    I'm afraid so. Sadly, we have, at least in american usage, where it is now almost always meant to say 'to touch inappropiately'. I don't know about UK/Aus.
    I agree though that in the paragraph given nothing points that way.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Not at all.
    Check the dictionary definitions.
    accuse
    criticise

    I can accuse without criticising. I can criticise without accusing.
    There are some elements of overlap, but they are essentially different.
    Check the definitions above and in the linked dictionaries.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Aren't they different only in the degree of angriness?
    If I can butt in here: I don't think anger necessarily comes into it. I can accuse my daughter (light-heartedly) of using up all the soap powder and leaving none for me. The 'accused' in a court-room is not usually the subject of judicial anger, but of impartial judgment.
    Criticism can be constructive (certainly with no element of anger), as in a learning situation: "You didn't handle that customer very well at the beginning of the call, when you sounded defensive, but by the end you were more assertive, it would be good to think about that". Also, literary criticism (as in book reviews) is not aimed at the author of the book but at informing potential readers. Hope this is of some use. :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks for your input!
    "accuse": pointing only what went wrong
    "criticize": more than pointing what went wrong, but what should be done

    ???
    Hi Cheshire,

    I think that pointing is one of those verbs, like knowing and remembering, which imply the existence of other things - if you are pointing at something then that something must exist. If you are pointing out something - the phrasal verb you should have used, incidentally - then that something exists.

    If you accuse someone of something, you are saying he did something, and probably something wrong - you are making an objective statement about him and/or about what he has done.

    If you criticize someone you are saying things about your view of what he has done - you are making a subjective statement, explaining your reaction to him and/or to what he has done.

    In neither case are you necessarily pointing out that the person has done something - you can falsely accuse someone, though when you criticize someone for doing something you are certainly implying that he did it.
     
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