Is the meaning of the word "cunning" different in England or the U.S.?

-- J.Vassiliou
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in :
Is the meaning of the word "cunning" different in England or the U.S.?

Yes, very much so. In UK English, cunning means clever, knowing - but with a pejorative aspect. "Cunning like the fox" is the best example. In US English, it's a compliment - "What a cunning little hat!"

In much the same way, "cute" took on the same meaning in the US, whereas its original sense (acute) was sharp, aware, intelligent. -- Molly Mockford I think I've been too long on my own, but the little green goblin that lives under the sink says I'm OK - and he's never wrong, so I must be! (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
In article , J. Vassiliou (Email Removed) writes:
Is the meaning of the word "cunning" different in England or the U.S.? Molly has answered your question, so I'll ... the US", rather than "England or the US". -- John Hall "Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin"

Sir Josiah Stamp, a former president of the Bank of England
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[nq:1] in :
Is the meaning of the word "cunning" different in England or the U.S.?

Yes, very much so. In UK English, cunning means clever, knowing - but with a pejorative aspect. "Cunning like the fox" is the best example. In US English, it's a compliment - "What a cunning little hat!"

FWIW, historically cunning just meant wise. The local herbalist/witch/quack was known as a cunning woman or man. As I recall, it was a cunning woman who was jealous of a rival that kicked off the great East Anglian witch hunts of the C17th.

It does also retain a less pejorative sense in UK English as "ingenious"- a cunning plan or, erm, stunt. I assume it has some etymological link to "ken" (as well as "can") but this isn't clear in my dictionaries.

I wonder if UK and US audiences interpret the Janacek opera title "The Cunning Little Vixen" in different ways. -- Phil C.
[nq:1]It does also retain a less pejorative sense in UK English as "ingenious"- a cunning plan or, erm, stunt. I assume it has some etymological link to "ken" (as well as "can") but this isn't clear in my dictionaries.
I always assumed that the etymological link was to "***" which makes an odd sort of sense. This would account for the pejorative element.

Dave F
in (Email Removed):
It does also retain a less pejorative sense in UK English as "ingenious"- a cunning plan or, erm, stunt. I assume it has some etymological link to "ken" (as well as "can") but this isn't clear in my dictionaries.

As a Scot, I had always assumed cunning=kenning, although bearing different baggage.
I wonder if UK and US audiences interpret the Janacek opera title "The Cunning Little Vixen" in different ways.

Never thought of that! :-) -- Molly Mockford I think I've been too long on my own, but the little green goblin that lives under the sink says I'm OK - and he's never wrong, so I must be! (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
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[nq:1] in (Email Removed):
It does also retain a less pejorative sense in UK ... well as "can") but this isn't clear in my dictionaries.

As a Scot, I had always assumed cunning=kenning, although bearing different baggage.

OED2 agrees with you, for what it is worth. An old meaning of 'can' was 'know', and it has the same etymological derivation as 'ken'.

Giles.
[nq:1]Molly has answered your question, so I'll merely point out that we would say "England and the US", rather than "England or the US".
Thank you all for your answers, I couldn't hope for more. John thanks for pointing that out for me; in fact I thought there was something wrong with it as I was writing it.

Happy Holidays to everyone.
-- J.Vassiliou
in :
Happy Holidays to everyone.

And to you. However, since this is the UK, not the US, we say "Happy Christmas" and "Happy New Year" rather than "Happy Holidays". -- Molly Mockford I think I've been too long on my own, but the little green goblin that lives under the sink says I'm OK - and he's never wrong, so I must be! (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
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