sob/cry

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blomst

Senior Member
Norway, Norwegian
Hello
I am somewhat confused about the distinction between these to verbs. Do you make more noise when you cry or when you sob? Am I right to think that sobbing is more noisy than crying?
 
  • Wondercow

    Member
    English - Canadian
    I am somewhat confused about the distinction between these two verbs. Do you make more noise when you cry or when you sob? Am I right to think that sobbing is more noisy than crying
    Sobbing is "to cry noisily"—but it's a specific type of noise. It involves loud gasps, perhaps even causing the body to shake, like when a young child is very upset and their whole body shakes as they inhale.
     

    greg from vancouver

    Senior Member
    Canada, Vancouver
    That's interesting because I would consider "sobbing" to be quiet, muffled crying, not noisy crying. I might say "that movie was so moving that I started sobbing a little", but I wouldn't mean that I was crying noisily.

    Anyways, it's hard to argue with a dictionary!

    -Greg
     

    blomst

    Senior Member
    Norway, Norwegian
    Thanks to both of you. Curious tought, that you who are both Canadians, interpret the word differently :)
     

    Wondercow

    Member
    English - Canadian
    greg from vancouver said:
    That's interesting because I would consider "sobbing" to be quiet, muffled crying, not noisy crying. I might say "that movie was so moving that I started sobbing a little", but I wouldn't mean that I was crying noisily.

    Anyways, it's hard to argue with a dictionary!
    Thanks to both of you. Curious tought, that you who are both Canadians, interpret the word differently :)
    I was actually unsure of my initial thought and went to the dictionary before posting :) My instinct was, much like Greg, that sobbing would be a quieter form of crying, but with the deep breaths and shaking. However, my New Oxford American Dictionary (since I don't have my BE Oxford concise handy) disagrees :D
     

    blomst

    Senior Member
    Norway, Norwegian
    My first understanding was like yours, but I also consulted the dictionary. And then was confused, so I asked you.
    I find this raher interesting, that the native users of the language, interpret a word quite contrary to the dictionary. Who is right, Mr. Dictonary or you, the native speakers? :)
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    The Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster (link), and the WordReference dictionary at the top of the page (link) all define "sobbing" strictly in terms of the gasps and physical convulsions involved, not the noise level (be it exceptionally low or high). I think the New Oxford American Dictionary might be the only one of us who thinks that sobbing is defined by its noisiness.
     

    blomst

    Senior Member
    Norway, Norwegian
    Not the only one, this is from MacMillian:'to cry noisily while taking short breaths', and Cambridge has the same definition. How do you interpret the verb?
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    My interpretation is with the dictionaries I cited, I think. If someone is crying quietly, they can be said to be "sobbing" as long as there is some involuntary shaking and/or gasping going on. To me, that physical part of the crying is what makes it a "sob." It is interesting that there are more dictionaries that want it to be noisy, too... I wonder what other native speakers think.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sobbing, according to the OED and its etymology, is To catch the breath in a convulsive manner as the result of violent emotion, esp. grief; to weep in this fashion.
    It refers specifically to the sudden involuntary intakes of breath.

    It seems to me to be a much more quiet and subdued activity than crying.
     

    charisma_classic

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.A.
    I agree that sobbing is crying with involuntary shaking, heaving of breath, etc. Sobbing and crying, as far as I am concerned, can be done loudly or quietly - the difference is the physicality of it, and the movement of the body. A sobbing child is much more of a spectacle than a crying child, but they might make the same amount of noise.
     

    barway

    New Member
    Greek
    My logic says that sobbing is less noisy, simply because crying aloud requires big breaths. Correct me if i am wrong.
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Crying for me is the generic term for anything from silent weeping to wide-mouthed wailing. A sob is a specific type of cry, as above, a convulsive, gaspy sound.
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    I might sob when I cry, but I don't necessarily cry when I sob.

    I interpret "sob" as specifically the sharp intake of breath, and the amount of noise I make just depends on how loudly I happen to have caught my breath. I suppose it's possible to do it quietly or noisily, so perhaps the difference in viewpoints in earlier posts is just because those posters happen to be quiet or noisy when sobbing themselves?

    Imagine a little girl crying. At full flow, she would probably make an awful racket, sobbing as noisily as possible. As she calms down she might still do the breath-catching thing but won't make as much noise about it. Unless, of course, one or other parent looks at her and catches her eye - then you can bet the volume at least doubles, particularly if she's crying because she wanted something and was refused. (Can you tell I have daughters?)
     
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