harsh v. severe v. stern

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hhtt

Senior Member
Turkish
- Whyd did you break up Annabel
- Because we weren't suited to each other.
- <...> Perhaps you were too severe towards him, Annabel. <…> You can be very severe. <-----Excess quote removed by moderator (Florentia52)----->

Which of the following would be correct, idiomatic and exactly or almost in the same sense as the original?

1) Perhaps you were too harsh towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very harsh. I have noticed this.

2) Perhaps you were too stern towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very stern. I have noticed this.

Source: The Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre

Thank you.
 
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  • hhtt

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Context: A man will sign a contract for his new job. But the contract has such conditions.

    - You cannot give up the job at least five years.
    - You cannot share with your friends or family what you are doing here.
    - If you die because of your mission, you and your family cannot demand atonement or legal penalty by law
    - After giving up the job, you cannot tell anyone or any newspaper what has happened.

    Which of the following is correct, idiomatic and in the same meaning with each other.

    1) The conditions of the job was so harsh that I did not want to sign contract.
    2) The conditions of the job was so severe that I did not want to sign the contract.
    3) The conditiions of the job was so stern that I did not want to sign the contract.

    Source: Self-made.

    Thank you.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    If Le Carre has written a word, then that is the word you should write and understand. None of the words you have offered as alternatives create the same meaning in this context.

    - Why were you not suited? Did you not love each other? Perhaps you were too severe towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very severe. [Inflexible; unemotional; emotionally cold; strict; overawing] I have noticed this.

    Which of the following would be correct, idiomatic and exactly or almost in the same sense as the original?

    1) Perhaps you were too harsh [cruel; potentially injurious; excessive (in punishment or treatment)] towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very harsh. I have noticed this.

    2) Perhaps you were too stern [formal and inflexible in an authoritarian manner] towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very stern. I have noticed this.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Harsh, severe, and stern are not really appropriate to qualify "contract" - the usual collocation is "onerous" - I suggest you use that.
     

    hhtt

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    If Le Carre has written a word, then that is the word you should write and understand. None of the words you have offered as alternatives create the same meaning in this context.

    - Why were you not suited? Did you not love each other? Perhaps you were too severe towards him, Annabel. That is possible. You can be very severe. [Inflexible; unemotional; emotionally cold; strict; overawing] I have noticed this.
    The meaning of severe here should exactly be as you have indicated. It is clearly about emontions. But I would like to ask that why dictionaries not cover this meaning of severe ?

    severe: definition of severe in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)

    severe - WordReference.com Dictionary of English

    The American Heritage Dictionary entry: severe

    Severe | Definition, meaning & more | Collins Dictionary

    Does this mean that the author use severe in a different and figurative manner?

    Thank you.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    But I would like to ask that why dictionaries not cover this meaning of severe ?
    Do not trust dictionaries 100%. Dictionaries do not know the context and the meaning of words changes with context.

    Normal dictionaries have limited space and thus give limited choices and examples. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives 13 meanings of "severe" and each meaning has, on average, 2 nuances or uses.

    The closest the OED comes is
    3. a. Unsparing in censure, criticism, or reproof.

    1858 M. A. Paul Maiden Sisters xii. 119 ‘There is no depth in the talk of general society, but plenty of lightness and flippancy.’ ‘I think you are severe,’ said Ellen, courageously.
    absol.
    c1614 J. Sylvester tr. H. Smith Micro-cosm. 374 in Wks. (1880) II. 100 If I be merry, I am mad (say the Severe).

    3 b. to be severe on (or upon): to pass harsh or sarcastic judgement on, ‘to be hard upon’.

    1738 Swift Compl. Coll. Genteel Conversat. 103, I suppose the Colonel was crossed in his first Love, which makes him so severe on all women.
     
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