English as a Second Language/The word

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QUESTION: Hi there,

I want to know that can the word "crafty" be used in a positive and good sense, or is it always used in a negative way?

For example,

"Jamie was crafty enough to escape from the gang."

Context:- The context of this sentence is that gangsters were running after Jamie to kill him and rob him, but he was crafty enough to escape from them.

ANSWER: Hello Den,

To the best of my knowledge crafty has a negative connotation, so it can't be used in a positive or good sense.

I hope this answers your question.

Cheers,

Amy

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Amy,

There are various places where cunning or crafty is used in a positive connotations. I will provide an article here:-

http://www.wischik.com/marcus/essay/def.html

It states, "Some plants protect themselves using cunning tricks with chemicals."

and here:- http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/23/science/nibbled-plants-don-t-just-sit-there-th


"Besieged by armies of voracious creatures but unable to run away, plants over the eons have evolved cunning defenses that include deadly poisons, oozings of toxic glue and hidden drugs that give leaf-eaters serious indigestion."

Here we can see that plants protect themselves from harm by using "cunning tricks" with chemicals and toxins to protect themselves from leaf-eaters. The "cunning defense" here is in a positive connotation.


So can cunning/crafty be used in a positive way or positive connotation?

Thanks.

ANSWER: Den,

your original question was about the word "crafty". Cunning and crafty are not always synonyms.

Cunning can be used in a positive way, when it means "attractive" but that's not the case in the examples you provided. In both situations the "cunning tricks" and "cunning defenses" have "negative" connotations (cunning here means achieving one's ends by deceit or evasion).

By the way, when cunning means "attractive", crafty is not a synonym.

For ex: Your little sister will look cunning/attractive in that yellow polka dots dress. (you can't substitute cunning or attractive with crafty here)

Back to your original question...

Crafty can mean skillful/skilled, but to the best of my knowledge that's an archaic meaning for the word. That would be the only instance when "crafty" could have a positive connotation.

Best,

Amy

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Amy,

So in the sentences of articles I provided, is the "cunning" word used here is attractive or skill in achieving one's ends by deceit? If the latter is meant here, then cunning (skill in achieving one's ends by deceit) can be used positively. Let's change the example,


"Jamie was cunning enough to escape from the gang." (Cunning here means skill of Jamie in deceiving gangster)


Context:- The context of this sentence is that gangsters were running after Jamie to kill him and rob him, but he was CUNNING (NOT CRAFTY) enough to escape from them.

Does the above sentence sound as a positive connotation?

Thanks

Answer
Den,

I'll simply stick to my original answer here.

You could use "crafty" or "cunning" to describe Jamie in your example above ... regardless of which one of the adjectives you use, they both have negative connotations. Jamie used his skills to deceive the gangster, yes he used them for a good cause but that doesn't give the word "crafty" or "cunning" a positive connotation.

I hope this helps.

Amy

English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker

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I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.

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I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

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BSc MEd TESL post grad program for k-12 TESL post grad program for adult ed

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