Okay, look:

Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. The two words are not interchangeable.

Empathy is when a person's experienced something and therefore understands how another person going through the same experience is feeling. E.g. I've failed a test before; you've failed your test; ergo, I can feel empathy for you and imagine how you feel.

Sympathy is when you care for another's misfortunes or situation because it evokes your feelings of compassion, pity, etc. E.g. I've never been through a hurricane, but I feel sympathy for what the victims of Katrina are going through; I cannot possibly empathise with them because I haven't been through what they've been through.

Dictionary.com has a useful analysis of the spectrum of related synonyms here (scroll down to about the middle of the page).

Get it right already.


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At 9/23/2005 2:15 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah it's a shame that people still use the two interchangeably.

Were your students the parties guilty of this grammatical transgression? :)

At 9/23/2005 9:25 am , Blogger justpassingby said...

aiyoh, don't get me started on words that people use interchangeably and wrongly... the "owe/own" thing, the "irregardless" thing, the "borrow/lend" and "fetch/send" etc etc etc... ah, the joys of being an engrish teacher.

At 9/23/2005 11:36 am , Blogger NARDAC said...

thank you for writing that. you have no idea how many times I scream at people about those words.

btw, I was trying to discuss this other day, in one of those moments where I have lots of time to burn, do you think having sympathy is more effective than having empathy?

At 9/23/2005 11:37 am , Blogger NARDAC said...

damn... correct my grammatical mistake, please.

At 9/24/2005 2:29 am , Blogger Tym said...

chandler > I shall need confirm nor deny anyone's culpability in sparking this particular rant-y entry :)

justpassingby > In GP, one of our pet peeves is "where/whereby"; the kids are perpetually using the latter when they mean the former. Your "fetch/send" reference made me think about a primary school English class (can't remember the teacher, though) where we were taught the distinctions between "bring", "take" and "fetch". Ah, the little things that define a person...

Nardac > I think sympathy's more important, yeah? Because that implies you can think outside the limitations of your personal experiences to still feel something for someone/something else in a completely alien situation. Of course, in this day and age, "feel" seems to have become something of a bad word and getting students to feel anything at all would be a small achievement.

At 9/26/2005 3:57 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justpassingby -> Yeah I remember being chided by a uni classmate on the use of "irregardless", which I was sadly guilty of until the correction.


Tym -> Y'know something? This post and its accompanying comments remind me so much of the blatant and widespread defilement of the English Language where I work in.

Good enough to inspire a post about it actually. Akan Datang!! :)


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