"As opposed to"

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Celery:
Hi All,
I find the term "as opposed to" in the Merriam Webster Dictionary at www.m-w.com. It is defined as "in contrast to". However, in the Online Cambridge Dictionary at , the term "as opposed to" is defined as "rather than".
I wonder if there is a difference in meaning in which the British and the American use this term because the Merriam Webster is an American dictionary whereas the Online Cambridge Dictionary focuses more on the British usage.
What is the meaning of "as opposed to"? Can both of these meanings be used?
Thanks in advance for your input
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CyberCypher:
(Email Removed) (Celery) burbled
[nq:1]Hi All, I find the term "as opposed to" in the Merriam Webster Dictionary at www.m-w.com. It is defined as ... more on the British usage. What is the meaning of "as opposed to"? Can both of these meanings be used?[/nq]
Well, you found two different meanings in two different types of dictionaries, but educated speakers of both dialects (BrE and AmE) will recognize both definitions as having essentially the same meaning. The difference is that one type of context requires "in contrast to" and another requires "rather than".
From Google:
"What exactly is an ELECTRON VOLT as opposed to a VOLT?"

This is one of those "in contrast to" contexts. It does contrast two different terms and asks for a way to distinguish them.

"Great Female Singers as opposed to 'Pop Princesses'."

This can be either. Put the phrase in a sentence
"I am talking about 'Great Female Singers' as opposed to 'Pop Princesses'" and it means more "rather than" (to this native speaker of AmE) than "in contrast to", but both will do.

I think it is reasonable to say that "as opposed to" should be used to mean "in contrast to" rather than "rather than". The latter is shorter and sounds better, to my ear, at least, when the speaker means "rather than" rather than "in contrast to".
"rather than" connotes a choice and not necessarily a contrast.
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Michael West:
[nq:1]I think it is reasonable to say that "as opposed to" should be used to mean "in contrast to" rather ... the speaker means "rather than" rather than "in contrast to". "rather than" connotes a choice and not necessarily a contrast.[/nq]
Yes, I don't understand what it's doing in that dictionary definition in the absence of some further discussion, comparison, or contrast.
One would say "I drink tea rather than coffee." If we say "I drink tea as opposed to coffee" our listeners might wonder why we're making such a big deal about a simple preference.
On the other hand, if we were discussing the health benefits of drinks that contain caffeine, and we wanted to be very clear about the differences between them, we might say "Now, in the case of tea, as opposed to coffee ..". It's a rhetorical convention that is frequently used to emphasize a difference, or to signal a shift in focus.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
(In the shadow of the You-Yangs)
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