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iStock (cat woman)

8 Terms for Enjoying Something (And the Subtle Differences Between Them)

iStock (cat woman)
iStock (cat woman)

Do you enjoy something to the extent that you consider yourself something of an expert? Do you need a simple title for yourself to express that enjoyment? English conveniently offers a long list of nouns you can use to describe what kind of enjoyer you are: aficionado, enthusiast, buff, connoisseur, fanatic, fan, freak, nut. But they aren't all just interchangeable synonyms. Each carries connotations that you may or may not want to identify with.

A connotation is a hard-to-pin down feeling. It arises from a history of use. The words you have seen in combination with a term over the years will color your sense of that term. You can get some insight into word connotation by looking at collocates (words that frequently show up together) in large collections of linguistic data. The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) at Brigham Young University has more more than 520 million words of text (since 1990) and includes both spoken English and texts from fiction, magazines, newspapers, and academic journals.

I used COCA to find out which words were most strongly associated with "enjoyer" terms in phrases of the "X ENJOYER" type, yielding terms like cigar aficionado, aviation enthusiast, and fitness buff. For each term I took the top 10 most frequently occurring pairs, and then ranked them by Mutual Information (MI) score. The MI score is basically a measure of strongly linked the two words are. Here are the results.


The most frequent collocate in front of aficionado is cigar, and it also has the highest MI score. The magazine Cigar Aficionado plays a big part in this result, but it fits with the general vibe represented by the rest of the collocates (jazz, architecture, fashion, baseball, wine, gun, film, music, and art): macho culturedness. Aficionado is for when you enjoy something with swagger and money.


Although art and wine show up again here, enthusiast carries an overall flavor of machinery on its list with aviation, auto, computer, gun, and car. It highlights knowledge of facts, trivia, and mechanical explanations.


Connoisseur is not a very common word in English, but if you like wine you're probably going to see it. Connoisseur seems to be associated with things you taste—cigar, dessert, cocktail, beer, coffee. While wine aficionado and wine enthusiast do show up on those lists, when wine joins with connoisseur, it carries connotations of flavor, rather than just knowledge of vintages and terroir.


I was surprised by this one. For me buff, goes most readily with history and war. I picture an independent scholar type who likes to hear himself talk. While history buff is the most frequent pairing with buff, fitness buff, conjuring a different sort of image, has the highest MI. This is because fitness has a lower overall frequency in the corpus than history.


Animals figure prominently on the lover list (animal, cat, dog), connoting a real emotional connection between living beings. Nature also fits with this idea. But if this one is for lovers of animals, what's meat doing there? Meat enthusiast or connoisseur would imply some sort of knowledge base or heightened discriminatory abilities. Meat lover just implies pure physical or emotional enjoyment, much in the way that dog lover doesn't connote a knowledge of facts about dogs, just an emotional enjoyment of them.


Fanatic is for sports, but also, to a lesser extent, for a few other passions that one can get crazily caught up in. After buff, fitness has the closes connection with fanatic. A fitness buff knows a lot about keeping fit. A fitness fanatic takes it a little too far.

7. FAN

Fan may originally be a shortening of fanatic, but it carries less frantic or crazy energy and perhaps more of a sense of loyalty. The top three MI score spots go to teams with big followings. Sox probably benefits from the fact that two teams bear that name, though Red Sox fan is about three times more common than White Sox fan.


A obsessiveness step beyond fanatic is freak. But here the connotations tend toward the highly regimented kind with neatness, germ, control, and organization. Gadget, computer, and TV also have a obsessive, mechanical aspect to them. A fitness freak is maybe a bit too strict and controlled about their regimen.

The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce 'Pulitzer'
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to top creative and scientific minds for over 100 years. Named after late 19th-century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the prize is a household name, yet its pronunciation still tends to trip people up. Is it “pull-itzer” or “pew-litzer”?

Poynter set the record straight just in time for today’s announcement of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners. Emily Rauh Pulitzer, wife of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., told Poynter, “My husband said that his father told people to say ‘Pull it sir.’”

If you’ve been saying it wrong, don’t feel too bad. Edwin Battistella, a linguist and professor at Southern Oregon University, said he pronounced it “pew-lit-zer” until a friend corrected him. Battistella looked to Joseph Pulitzer’s family history to explain why so many people pronounce it incorrectly. He writes on the Oxford University Press's OUPBlog:

“[Joseph Pulitzer] was born in Hungary, where Pulitzer, or Politzer as it is sometimes spelled, was a common family name derived from a place name in southern Moravia, the village of Pullitz. In the United States, the spelling Pulitzer would have quite naturally been Anglicized as PEW-lit-zer by analogy to the other pu spellings like pure, puritanical, pubic, puce, and so on.”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the family to decide how they’d like their surname to be pronounced. Here it is, pronounced just how the Pulitzers like it, in a YouTube video:

[h/t Poynter]


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