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poor

Posted: Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:42 am
by azz
a. It was a poor house.
b. It was a poor car.


In one 'poor' and 'house' are two words. We are not talking about a poorhouse (a workhouse).

I think (b) can only mean that it was a car in poor condition. (a) seems ambiguous to me. It might mean a house in bad condition or a house in which poor people would live, a house that was a sign of poverty.

Would you agree with that?

Many thanks.

Re: poor

Posted: Thu Mar 21, 2019 6:57 pm
by Shelley
Hi azz. I don't find (a) to be ambiguous. It might be ambiguous if you were speaking the two words: a person might hear "poorhouse." On paper, though, I take "poor house" to simply mean badly built, rundown, or otherwise not up to standard. I might use a more specific word to describe a structure's disrepair, but poor is ok.

There are many other words to describe a house where poverty stricken people might live (i.e. hovel, shack, hut, crack den). However, even if a structure is a hut or a shack, that doesn't necessarily mean its occupants are poor. To be precise, you could say "low-income housing."

Re: poor

Posted: Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:17 pm
by Phil White
Yes, I agree with Shelley. There is no ambiguity. And the term "poorhouse" is now historical, so few people would think of using it outside of a historical context. Incidentally, a "poorhouse" and a "workhouse" are not strictly synonyms, although the reality in the 19th century often meant that a poorhouse was in effect a workhouse.