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Contented or happy?

6 replies

PrettyCandles · 21/05/2008 21:23

What's the difference?

Can you have one without the other?

Are you either? Or both?

OP posts:
SenoraPostrophe · 21/05/2008 21:28

I think generally people use "contented" when they mean slightly less happy tha "happy" - happy people smile, contented people may not.

Also, contented is generally a long term thing, where happy can be brief - you can say "was was happy 5 minutes ago", but I'm not sure you can say "I was contented 5 minutes ago".

so yes, I guess yiou can be one without the other. You can be briefly happy without being contented, and you can be contented without ever really being happy (although that would be quite rare).

there could be regional differences though - can you always use each word interchangeably?

PrettyCandles · 21/05/2008 21:32

I agree that you can be happy without being contented, and that happiness can be much more transient than contentedness, but I'm not sure that you can be content without being happy. Surely that would be a state of acceptance, rather than contentment?

OP posts:
Sanguine · 21/05/2008 22:44

My dh is the expert on this one. But he has just explained to me that happy actually means fortunate or lucky ("hap" in the same sense occurs in happenstance, mayhap and perhaps). It has come to mean more or less the same as content, with a slight difference in meaning as the others have said. The feeling of the two words is different, as often occurs in the english language when two words with the same meaning come from different roots. Words that have latin origins tend to be used in a more formal or slightly more diffident sense. Words that are from old english have a warmer, more emotive feel. Examples are infant/child, fortunate/happy, frequent/often.

DH has literature PhD and he always prefers the old english option. Being a scientist, I tend towards latinate words, and it drives him mad.

I find the whole thing quite fascinating.

asicsgirl · 22/05/2008 08:35

eve clark is very good on this sanguine. 'principle of contrast' = languages/ language users assume that no two words mean exactly the same thing. so words that come from 2 different origins come over time to have slightly different meanings, e.g. 'fox' and 'vixen' used to both mean 'fox'. languages abhor absolute synonyms!!

as for the op: as basil fawlty said, "ah, yes, happiness. i remember that."

asicsgirl · 22/05/2008 08:39

sorry link doesn't work! try this one

also fawlty quote wrong should be "happy. i remember that"

sorry! been up all night bf-ing is my excuse

asicsgirl · 22/05/2008 08:40

i know!! quotation, not quote

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