From the list of words below, please tell which ones have a positive connotation, a negative connotation, or a neutral connotation (each group of three must have one positive, negative, and...

From the list of words below, please tell which ones have a positive connotation, a negative connotation, or a neutral connotation (each group of three must have one positive, negative, and neutral):

A) counsel, advise, nag 

B) humorous, quick-witted, smart-alecky

C) instructor, mentor, lecturer

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the three groups of words, the one that presents the most difficulty is clearly group A.  The reason for this difficulty lies in the definitional overlap between “counsel” and “advise,” as the former commonly includes in its definition the latter, and neither generally carries either positive or negative connotations.  To provide counsel to someone is simply to offer information (or advise) pertaining to a particular course of action or decision that the recipient of the information is expected or required to make.  Both words, in effect, are entirely neutral.  There is no question that “nag” is the word that carries negative connotations, as it is a word used to pejoratively describe another individual’s efforts at prodding someone to take a specific course of action.  “My mother nagged me to take out the garbage” is another way of saying “my mother continuously asked me to take out the garbage, and she was driving me crazy.”

If one has to choose between counsel and advise for designation as positive and negative in tone, however, the distinction is far less clear.  “I would counsel you to sign this contract” is little different than “I would advise you to sign this contract,” the difference being that “counsel” is a derivative of “counselor,” which is usually described as someone paid to provide advice.  If forced to choose, therefore, I would suggest designating “counsel” as having a negative connotation, as it usually involves a more formal setting, while “advise” would have a more neutral connotation that is a part of everyday discourse, including between relatives and friends.

In group B, the distinctions are fairly straightforward.  “Humorous” is clearly neutral in tone, while “quick-witted” is positive, suggesting, for example, that an individual is very smart and possessed of a good sense of humor.  Conversely, “smart-alecky” definitely carries negative connotations, as it implies that the individual in question is smug and rude. 

In group C, the distinctions between “instructor” and “lecturer” are, as with “counsel” and “advise,” nonexistent in most instances.  To the extent that the intent behind the use of specific words is a factor, then distinctions can be made; absent knowledge of intent, the distinction is blurred.  For purposes of this exercise, however, it can be surmised that “instructor” is intended to be neutral, while “lecturer” can carry negative connotations.  We are happy to be instructed on how to perform a complicated task; we do not like to be lectured on how we should carry out a task.  “Mentor,” on the other hand, carries very positive connotations, as to refer to someone, usually a learned elder, as one’s “mentor” is to bestow upon that individual an honorific suggesting beneficial guidance.  Mentors help us through life; instructors teach us; lecturers tell us what they want us to know or do.

tyler-k | Student

From what I can understand, it seems like you want each word from each group to be labeled as either negative, positive, or neutral, so that is what I have done below. I hope this helps!

A) counsel, advise, nag 

To me, nag definitely has a negative connotation. That's what normally comes to mind anytime a parent tells me to do something. Advise has a positive connotation, because it often signals that help or reinforcement is given. This leaves counsel to have a neutral connotation, because counseling can either provide negative feedback or positive.

B) humorous, quick-witted, smart-alecky

Smart-alecky is most negative out of this group. In my experience, a smart-aleck is never fun to be around. Quick-witted and humorous both seem positive to me, but in this case, quick-witted would be more positive. I guess in a way, humorous is neutral because it can be seen as either positive or negative. Humor is fun, but it can easily be taken too far.

C) instructor, mentor, lecturer

Although all three of these words can be taken any way, lecturer probably has the most negative connotation. A lecture can easily become boring and even a little "preachy" in some situations, not that that is a bad thing. Mentor almost always comes with a fully positive connotation. A child or apprentice will look up to his/her mentor as a source of guidance. Instructor would have to be the neutral one. 

mobarrera | Student

Grp. A is negative:  All three words create a negative connotation because of what each infers.  Counsel, meaning you have some issue which requires another to assist you to solve it.  You are incapable of solving problems.  Advise, gives the impression you are indecisive.  You need someone else to make decisions for you.  Nag, it is what we invision and can actually hear our parents, spouses do and/or say.  They nag! A constant annoying sound.  The words have hard sound letters, such as counsel, begins with a "c", advise, the "s" has the "ssss" sound such a snake hissing, and nag begins and ends with hard sounds, "n" resonnates and "g", the guttural "g".      

Grp. B is positive:  All three words have a certain charm to them. Humorous is comical.  Quick witted implies intelligent.  Smart alecky, sarcasm, which can be humorous.  Smart alecky ends in a  "y", giving the connotation of sweetness.  All three words require that you be witty.  The "h" in humorous and "q" and "w" have soft sounds.

Grp. C is neutral:  Instructor, mentor, lecturer, all three begin with soft sound letters and end with the "r" although "r" has a rather hard sound it tends to roll from your mouth; thus, creating a balance from beginning to end.