the means for rejecting a waiver are, at best, opaque

kansi

Senior Member
japanese
Is the word opaque a formal word?
I guess that it's at least a not popular word.
Does it mean "difficult to understand" in this context?


Amid opaque tariff process, questions arise as to why some companies receive exemptions
All merchandise is assigned a specific tariff code in accordance with the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, an international standard for tens of thousands of products. Simply determining the category and code for an item can be a laborious process — and the means for rejecting a waiver are, at best, opaque.

●For instanae, Chinese language is one of the most difficult languages to learn.
Can we say "Chinese language is opaque." and does it sound natural?
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Does it mean "difficult to understand" in this context?
    Yes, but "opaque" is the opposite of transparent, not the opposite of simple. You might think of "opaque" as meaning "hidden" or "obscure"/"obscured". You cannot say that the Chinese language is opaque, in any meaningful way I can think of, certainly not if what you want to say is that it is difficult to learn.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Yes, but "opaque" is the opposite of transparent, not the opposite of simple. You might think of "opaque" as meaning "hidden" or "obscure"/"obscured". You cannot say that the Chinese language is opaque, in any meaningful way I can think of, certainly not if what you want to say is that it is difficult to learn.
    Do these things below go well with "opaque"?
    ●A black hole is opaque. There will be a lot left to discover.
    ●The novel corona virus is still opaque.

    What's an example thing which is opague?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Do these things below go well with "opaque"?
    ●A black hole is opaque. There will be a lot left to discover.
    ●The novel corona virus is still opaque.
    No. A black hole, as a physical object, may well be opaque, in that you cannot see through it, but that is a literal meaning, The examples you have been talking about have been figurative.
    What's an example thing which is opague?
    The workings of Donald Trump's mind, perhaps.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    the mental process he uses to decide what to do. It is impossible to work out, to guess at or (perhaps more pertinently with "opaque") to see.
    I see. Because of his mental process, which is very different from others, we can't expect what he does. That mental process is opaque.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    It is not really about what he does, but the mental process he uses to decide what to do. It is impossible to work out, to guess at or (perhaps more pertinently with "opaque") to see.
    I also wonder if it's a formal word or not. Is it formal?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Using 'opaque/transparent' when talking about some text, for instance, or a piece of art, or the workings of Trump's mind would be figurative.

    Describing a piece of cardboard as opaque or a window as transparent would be literal.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    figurative uses of it is difficult to understand.
    Well if I say 'how a black hole is formed is opaque.' , is it a correct way to use it?
    Not if you assume that it is possible to work out how a black hole could be formed by observation and reasoning, even if it is far beyond your or anyone else's intelligence.

    Quite honestly, if "opaque" is giving you this much trouble, I suggest you don't use it at all. I might find a use for the figurative use once a decade or so, and might encounter "opaque" in something I am reading a couple of times a year. It is not a common word at all, and most people never use it at all in their lives.

    The figurative use of "opaque" is closely tied to the figurative use of "see". If you can see how something works, then it quite clearly is not opaque. If you cannot see how something works and, furthermore, you don't think anything else would be able to see how something works, then it is opaque.
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    we can't expect what he does ❌
    we can’t predict what he will do :tick:
    we can’t anticipate what he will do :tick:

    The etymology of “opaque” has it as shaded, dark, impervious to light, meaning something that does not transmit light, or that is physically unlit or shaded.

    Whether using it literally or figuratively I wouldn’t say that it’s a highly formal word, but rather an educated term. Your average school-aged child would not use it, but a university professor certainly might.

    Black holes are literally opaque, they do not transmit light. The origins of black holes might be figuratively opaque in that we have difficulty in understanding them. Your wording must convey whether it’s the figurative, mental process being referred to or the physical properties of something.

    Hope it helps.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    The origins of black holes might be figuratively opaque in that we have difficulty in understanding them.
    Well, after all can we say "The origines of black holes might be figuratively opaque." without sounding odd?
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Well, after all can we say "The origines of black holes might be figuratively opaque." without sounding odd?
    :D
    Of course we can, as long as we are having a discussion about the proper use of the word “opaque”. :D *

    *Please note my humor, as you have just quoted my previous post and asked whether we can say it that way without sounding odd.

    P.S. I hope my sense of humor is not opaque to you.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    :D
    Of course we can, as long as we are having a discussion about the proper use of the word “opaque”. :D *

    *Please note my humor, as you have just quoted my previous post and asked whether we can say it that way without sounding odd.

    P.S. I hope my sense of humor is not opaque to you.
    I mean,
    ●how a black hole is formed is opaque.
    →This sounds odd.

    ●The origines of black holes might be figuratively opaque.
    →This doesn't sound odd.

    I still can't see the diffence between them that you guys ,native English speakers see.
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hmm. Kansi, I wonder if you think you’re being fair to yourself when you demand that our conversation here conform to normal usage? After all, what I wrote, that you are now putting up for comparison in post #19 with the example you offered previously, was not given as an example of real world usage, but rather by way of explanation of the concepts we are discussing here. And it’s not even the whole sentence I wrote, so you are further stripping it of the original context. Why do you think that is supposed to make sense in the same way as the example you offered?

    I think you’ve almost got it. Saying the origins of a black hole are “opaque” is not good usage because the figurative use of the word typically is in reference to human activity. The origin of black holes is not a human activity.

    opaque pricing :tick:
    the opaque workings of Kenya Power :tick:

    Setting prices is a human activity. Kenya Power is a human-run electric company.
     
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    In my opinion opaque in figurative terms should be particularly, if not only, used in contexts where it has a "moral" meaning. If, as @Uncle Jack pointed out in #2, the opposite is opaque is transparent, then trasparent must be assumed here as fair, correct, just, and opaque as not much so.
    Any other figurative use of opaque sounds odd to me, unless maybe in some very specific field as sciences and statistics where in fact it doesn't have any moral undermeaning. In computer science we have the concept of data opacity, for example, but I would never use that as a basis to create an idiomatic use of "opaque".
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In my opinion opaque in figurative terms should be particularly, if not only, used in contexts where it has a "moral" meaning. If, as @Uncle Jack pointed out in #2, the opposite is opaque is transparent, then trasparent must be assumed here as fair, correct, just, and opaque as not much so.
    That’s an interesting analysis. I tend to agree with you.

    Referring to human affairs as “opaque” is a type of criticism. It’s not just that something is hard to understand in the way that differential calculus might be considered to be challenging, but rather, that we had an expectation that something or someone would be more open and accessible than it actually is.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    That’s an interesting analysis. I tend to agree with you.

    Referring to human affairs as “opaque” is a type of criticism. It’s not just that something is hard to understand in the way that differential calculus might be considered to be challenging, but rather, that we had an expectation that something or someone would be more open and accessible than it actually is.
    Yes, I was thinking the same thing as I scrolled down. When I use the word opaque to refer to the actions of a person or organisation, there is a criticism implied. The rules should be clear and the results clearly reflect the rules. If I say they are opaque, that means that potentially they are being applied inconsistently or unfairly or even in a corrupt manner. But since I don't know for sure, I can only say "opaque."

    Opaque as a word of criticism only makes sense if you have an expectation that a process should be clear or transparent. In institutions this means that the rules are clear and the results show that those rules are being followed.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Quite honestly, if "opaque" is giving you this much trouble, I suggest you don't use it at all. I might find a use for the figurative use once a decade or so, and might encounter "opaque" in something I am reading a couple of times a year. If you can see how something works, then it quite clearly is not opaque. If you cannot see how something works and, furthermore, you don't think anything else would be able to see how something works, then it is opaque.
    If you were an American, you would probably use 'opaque' more often (see comments 4 through 7). :D

    I agree that opaque is not an extremely common word, but it's often used figuratively to describe something that is incomprehensible in some way.
    For instance, a transparent process of decision-making is one where all the reasons for making the decision are visible. On the other hand, if someone's decision-making is opaque, I cannot see how they arrived at their decision (and I suspect they may be hiding something).

    In everyday usage, I expect that 'opaque' is most often used to describe curtains. I found several instances of that use on the internet just now.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    curtains? like ones used at windows in a house?
    Exactly. We also refer to stockings as opaque or sheer (nylons or pantyhose or tights). That's the literal meaning. Can you see through the fabric?

    People who work night shift and sleep days often want totally opaque "blackout curtains" for their bedroom windows to keep the room dark while they sleep.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Exactly. We also refer to stockings as opaque or sheer (nylons or pantyhose or tights). That's the literal meaning. Can you see through the fabric?
    Ah I see! I thought you put up curtains as a figurative use of the word. It's an example of literal uses!

    Are we saying to stuff in a curtain shop" where can I find a totally opaque curtain?"
    *curtains in general are opaque so saying "I am looking for opaque curtains" doesn't make sense and answer would be "any curtain is opaque".
     
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    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Kansi, I apologize. I see now where in post #16 I had not fully analyzed the question in order to give a definitive and correct response to your question.

    Upon reflection I don’t think the origins of black holes can be properly said to be opaque, tho perhaps someone’s explanation of the origins of black holes could be said to be opaque.

    I do hope my uneven attempts to explain the proper use of “opaque” have not been overly “opaque”. :(
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Ah I see! I thought you put up curtains as a figurative use of the word. It's an example of literal uses!

    Are we saying to stuff in a curtain shop" where can I find a totally opaque curtain?"
    *curtains in general are opaque :cross:so saying "I am looking for opaque curtains" doesn't make sense and answer would be "any curtain is opaque".
    There is a whole category of curtains/drapes that are sold as light-tight or blackout curtains- i.e. totally opaque. Curtains can be sheer, lace, light fabric, heavy fabric and these all let some light through and are not totally opaque. So specifiying opaque curtains does make sense :)
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Kansi, I apologize. I see now where in post #16 I had not fully analyzed the question in order to give a definitive and correct response to your question.

    Upon reflection I don’t think the origins of black holes can be properly said to be opaque, tho perhaps someone’s explanation of the origins of black holes could be said to be opaque.

    I do hope my uneven attempts to explain the proper use of “opaque” have not been overly “opaque”. :(
    No, no that was a very helpful answer!! Thank you very much for giving me answers.
    And also I really appriciated that you came back and told me that a part of your answer was probably wrong after reading and considering it again, so that I now understand both 'how a black hole is formed is opaque' and "the origine of a black hole is opaque." are not proper. Otherwise, I would be left somewhat confused now.
     

    kansi

    Senior Member
    japanese
    There is a whole category of curtains/drapes that are sold as light-tight or blackout curtains- i.e. totally opaque. Curtains can be sheer, lace, light fabric, heavy fabric and these all let some light through and are not totally opaque. So specifiying opaque curtains does make sense :)
    ah okay! with"totally" just saying I am looking for opaque curtains makes sense,
     
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