January 17, 2006


Posted in common at 10:13 am by Feng

Dictionaries, though useful, may be misleading sometimes. From the dictionary, “sketchy” could mean “Resembling a sketch; giving only major points or parts”. So I used this word in my paper: “this is a sketchy proof …”. However, two English speakers pointed out that “sketchy” has a negative connotation (see this), and their interprettation of the sentence is “this is a dodgy proof”! A similar example in Chinese is on the use of the word “xiao-jie” (i.e., Miss). It is so often abused to refer to prostitutes that its connotation is now quite negative.



  1. steveharmon said,

    If you were referring to work, like a proof, then I don’t see how anyone would take “sketchy” to be extremely negative or to have sexual undertones.

    I think of “sketchy” in terms of a “sketchy” or “dodgy” character. We don’t use “dodgy” in the U.S.

  2. Feng said,

    well, i read this sentence to an American guy. The immediate response I got was “no!”. So i believe it shouldn’t be an appropriate word. For “dodgy”, yes, you are right; it’s mainly used in the UK.

  3. vdovault said,

    I think the American word ‘iffy’ is pretty close to the UK’s ‘dodgy’. If I were speaking to an American, I’d use ‘iffy’.

  4. […] I have been busy writing up a paper these days. I told someone in the group that I had a few colorful plots to display the experimental results, so the paper would look “graphic“. He was a bit hesitant at start, but then couldn’t help laughing. To explain this, he gave me an example that he had a friend doing the research on auto-detecting pornographic pictures for Internet filtering. “I read that guy’s dissertation,” he said, “That was really graphic.” The word “graphic” can literally mean “pictorial”, according to dictionary.com. However, in real-life, its connotation is usually negative. A similar example is on the use of “sketchy“. […]

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