What are the different connotations for "thin" and "skinny"?

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The connotation of a word is the emotional weight a word carries for the reader. The connotation of a word is different than the denotation , or the dictionary definition of a word. For example, the words "chubby" and "fat" have similar denotative meanings. However, the...

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The connotation of a word is the emotional weight a word carries for the reader. The connotation of a word is different than the denotation, or the dictionary definition of a word. For example, the words "chubby" and "fat" have similar denotative meanings. However, the word "chubby" evokes positive emotions; one might picture a comedic character from a sitcom or Santa Claus when "chubby" is used to describe a person's frame. The connotations of fat are far more negative.

In Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, the inhabitants of the concentration camps are repeatedly described using the word "skinny". Examine this excerpt from the English translation of the novel, as Elie ponders the effects of his malnourished,

you are too skinny…you are too weak…you are too skinny, you are good for the ovens … The race seemed endless; I felt as though I had been running for years…You are too skinny, you are too weak...

This shows that Elie connects his skeletal frame with his possible demise. He understands that physical weakness is dangerous, as it could lead to his death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

This brings us to your original question regarding the use of "skinny" and "thin" in Night. Skinny has a negative connotation, implying that a person is too underweight. "Thin" is a more neutral word that does not carry strong or positive emotional weight.

A translator's choice to employ the word "skinny" rather than "thin" would indicate that they believe Wiesel's original Yiddish language to carry negative emotional connotations.

I hope this helps!

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