Humbleness versus Humility, Passiveness vs Passivity, etc.

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Thread: Humbleness versus Humility, Passiveness vs Passivity, etc.

  1. #1

    Humbleness versus Humility, Passiveness vs Passivity, etc.

    Many nouns have multiple forms that mean essentially the same thing: humbleness/humility, passiveness/passivity, and so on. I did a little digging as to why this was, and found a hypothesis that the "-ity" form is a property, while the "-ness" form is a characteristic. Again, these are two words that seem synonymous, but property seems to refer to something possessed by a group, while characteristic is specific to an individual. (Monks may have humbleness, but the Dali Lama has humility.)

    There seems to be some confusion at large about this, though (particularly since there are cases where you always only use one form, like strength versus strongness), so I'll ask you all as a group. How do you determine which form to use, and is there a prevailing standard that should be followed?
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  2. #2
    I've never thought about this much. I just use the version of a word that I think works in the context of my writing. So far, no one has complained. It's interesting to learn that there may be a method to what I've taken to be all intuition, but that's how English generally goes.
    Wisdom is seldom boisterous.

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  3. #3
    I just use the form that I think is right, never gave it any thought as to why I think it is the right word, I just do.
    "When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life, and that I can't do." -Abel Morales - A Most Dangerous Year.

  4. #4
    I'd be interested to read further this hypothesis, but seem unable to google anything up tonight. Is there a useful link? ----------- For myself, without research, I believe I might have hypothesized this to be a case where the eventual English usage had been historically informed by multiple heritage languages: some words went east and some went west but for a bunch, the jury's still out. In any case, it's an amusing distinction to consider formalized in the language, by suffix, with such specificity. Must be handy for Platonists.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ppsage View Post
    I'd be interested to read further this hypothesis, but seem unable to google anything up tonight. Is there a useful link?
    These are the sites that prompted my initial post:
    http://the-difference-between.com/humility/humbleness
    https://www.physicsforums.com/thread...eristic.85876/

    And mostly unrelated but interesting:
    http://english.stackexchange.com/que...characteristic
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  6. #6
    thnx ------------- according to dictionary.com, -ity is a direct-from-Latin noun-forming suffix and -ness is a 'native' English one. This doesn't preclude their having come to have specific meanings of course, though one suspects it makes it messier.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

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