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"Unbelievable" vs. "Non-believable" Options
TheParser
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013 10:39:24 AM
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Would you please tell me the difference between these two adjectives?

For example, this sentence from a Google book: "...my brain followed a path of destruction, leading me toward a non-believable nightmare, following an unbelievable life of misery."

And a United States senator recently said this about a certain American politician: "And he's beginning to not be believable to me."

Is "not be believable" closer to "unbelievable" or "non-believable"?

I notice that my print dictionaries and the online dictionaries do not recognize "non-believable" as a word that merits mention.


Thank you,


James





thar
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013 10:58:49 AM

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I think the problem is that unbelievable, like incredible, does not only mean you cannot believe it It can also mean, in the right context - very, massively, greatly (I am having trouble not saying incredibly...)

so, if he just said
an unbelievable nightmare, it might mean a really, really bad one.

So you say non-believable to mean 'it is not possible to believe this'.

the same with the senator (which sounds to me like terrible English, but is excusable if he got halfway though the sentence... - not so excusable in a written speech.)

If you call someone unbelievable, then they are astonishing, astounding, shocking.
eg
my boss expected me to work over Easter. He is unbelievable. He always does that, he is such a jerk.
Pele was an unbelievable player.

So he did not want to call his opponent (or whoever) unbelievable, because that response is juvenile, and not what he wanted to say.

He wanted to make it quite clear that his opponent was no longer credible - you could not trust what he said to be the truth. (Or in this instance it might mean believing in him. I don't think so but it may be possible in context)

So, I think the words have diverged, and you now have to use believable for credible (I can believe) and the made-up non-believable for not credible (I can't believe), because incredible and unbelievable have become expressions of awe, shock, admiration or condemnation - not actual belief or credibility.

That would be my take. I don't know which words of all these may or may not appear in dictionaries, or have history and be lost as archaic, or be neologisms.
chromomancer
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2013 1:04:28 PM
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I agree with what thar said, except that I think I have a stronger preference for "not believable" over "non-believable".

But I wouldn't have posted except to say that it's interesting to compare this situation with "disinterested" and "uninterested" which do have very different meanings. It's a fairly common mistake to use "disinterested" when people actually mean "uninterested". But the meaning has flipped a couple of times over the centuries. There is an interesting "usage note" about it in http://www.thefreedictionary.com/disinterested

There are some other interesting cases where there are two different "negative" forms of a word, like the difference between "immoral" and "amoral". Both are different kinds of "not moral". The first describes someone who is bad and knows he/she is bad, the second describes someone who doesn't have morals (and so isn't doing anything wrong from their own point of view) although it includes people who know that society thinks their behaviour is wrong (e.g. psychopaths).
TheParser
Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2013 6:34:11 AM
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Thank you very much.
TheParser
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 6:20:23 AM
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I have just learned some shocking news.

Who do you think used the wrong pronoun in:
"It is a wonderful moment for my husband and I after nearly six months away to be met and escorted by ships of the Home Fleet."

Answer: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Unbelievable!
thar
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 6:31:31 AM

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That sounds like high standard educated (BE) English.

If she said 'and me' it would sound far more common and uneducated.

yes, 'for' should not take the nominative form 'I', but you know that the personal pronoun cases are all screwed up. That is what she was taught to say, so I would class it as 'correct' - the 'right' pronoun. I would have to call this BE as you would expect to hear it from a person with a certain background. Not shocking at all! After all, some language rules are strong, and some are a lot weaker. She has grown up hearing and learning that in a group 'we' such as 'my husband and I' you would use this form even after a 'for'. You would not say 'me' there. You might say 'myself' I guess. But she went for 'I'. (Or her speechwriter writing it, and she would certainly express her views if it were not to her standards). I would have to put that down to the English language as used by an English person, and therefore, by default, correct! Whistle Whistle Whistle
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:50:29 AM

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Well, it is the Queen's English, after all. What?

One doesn't like to find fault, does one?
leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 2:42:02 PM

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Joined: 8/11/2011
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Location: Miami, Florida, United States
thar wrote:
That sounds like high standard educated (BE) English.

If she said 'and me' it would sound far more common and uneducated.

yes, 'for' should not take the nominative form 'I', but you know that the personal pronoun cases are all screwed up. That is what she was taught to say, so I would class it as 'correct' - the 'right' pronoun. I would have to call this BE as you would expect to hear it from a person with a certain background. Not shocking at all! After all, some language rules are strong, and some are a lot weaker. She has grown up hearing and learning that in a group 'we' such as 'my husband and I' you would use this form even after a 'for'. You would not say 'me' there. You might say 'myself' I guess. But she went for 'I'. (Or her speechwriter writing it, and she would certainly express her views if it were not to her standards). I would have to put that down to the English language as used by an English person, and therefore, by default, correct! Whistle Whistle Whistle

Bugger that.

We need to speak English like a Viking, and a-viking we shall go.
Whistle
almostfreebird
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 2:47:19 PM
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Location: Japan

Be polite, leonAzul.



leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 2:51:35 PM

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almostfreebird wrote:

Be polite, leonAzul.




That's absurd, considering your posting history.
thar
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 5:34:52 PM

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Joined: 7/8/2010
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no offence, afb Whistle

leonAzul wrote:

Bugger that.

We need to speak English like a Viking, and a-viking we shall go.
Whistle

I hate to break it to you, but you do speak English like a viking now!
þú talar nú ensku sem víkingur. Whistle
leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 8:02:57 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/11/2011
Posts: 8,589
Neurons: 31,086
Location: Miami, Florida, United States
thar wrote:
no offence, afb Whistle

leonAzul wrote:

Bugger that.

We need to speak English like a Viking, and a-viking we shall go.
Whistle

I hate to break it to you, but you do speak English like a viking now!
þú talar nú ensku sem víkingur. Whistle

Who'd a thunk it?
Whistle
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