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Old 11-11-2005, 08:52 AM   #1
groucho
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Default Verbs: "obscure" vs "secure"

Does anyone have an OED or other "authoritive" or dictionary to check this one out in?

I find "obscure" and "secure" (both used as verbs) not listed as synonyms anyplace, and defined similarly but distinctly even in the legal dictionaries.

I'm trying to research a point in a federal regulation where "obscuring" the contents of messages is prohibited--but there is no mention of *securing* the contents, i.e. against people who should not be able to intercept and read them.

And I'm wondering, can anyone find any authoritive citation where "securing" something would be defined as--or distinctly from--obscuring it?
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Old 11-11-2005, 10:13 AM   #2
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Interesting. I've never thought of those words as being even remotely synonymous! Sorry, no OED here....

   
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Old 11-11-2005, 10:32 AM   #3
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They never struck me as synonymous either, but I'm having a dickens of time trying to figure out exactly how I would define the difference between them (as verbs!) and how to cite a source besides "that's how I use them".

What's your take on them?
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Old 11-11-2005, 10:46 AM   #4
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OK, keep in mind this is without cracking open a dictionary and without knowing a thing about legalese. All bets are off when it comes to legal terminology. ...

To obscure something would be to make it difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to see. But if you can move whatever is obscuring the item, you can see it, touch it, take it -- whatever. To secure something means to tie it down or lock it away. It may or may not mean you cannot see it but it cannot leave where it is, nor can you take it away unless you know how to free it from its confinement.

That's my take ... who's next?

   
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Old 11-11-2005, 01:00 PM   #5
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Franca:

I see (vaguely) Groucho's point. You may want to secure something by obscuring it. But there's no connexion at all between the two words.

I would venture a guess that the US Government wants to make it an offence to hide a message, but it's OK to make sure that it gets to its intended recipient; in other words, you must give the US Government the key to any encryptation. Not Pygmalion likely!

   
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Old 11-11-2005, 07:28 PM   #6
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Obscuring as in "taking a big fat magic marker and drawing a line through it" or "scanning the doc into Photoshop and mucking about with it to render parts unreadable".

Vs Securing as in "making sure that the wrong people can't get at the paper copy or open the digital copy at all"

Maybe?

   
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Old 11-12-2005, 12:22 AM   #7
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Laws are often obscure. I am not sure whether Tony Blair is just not concerned with the detail and leaves his laws with all sorts of faults which the judges will have to sort out later to bring in the 'law of unintended consequences" . . .

Or whether things are intentionally left vague so that the meaning with the greatest adverse impact on my life can be inferred later.

   
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Old 11-12-2005, 10:13 AM   #8
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Groucho,
Can you give us a bit more of the context here?
Best wishes, Adrian
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Old 11-14-2005, 12:56 AM   #9
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How about another word: 'obfuscate' - meaning, AFAIK, to deliberately make something hard to read or understand - a bit like taking plain English common sense and putting it into legislation, in fact :-)

FWIW, I'd never think the two synonymous in any way. They may have the same end result in certain cases, of course.

However, I put my membership of the ISTC to good use and looked both terms up on our Oxford Online service:

  • 1. obscure adj.
    not discovered or known about; uncertain. Not important or well known.
    (From The Concise Oxford English Dictionary)
  • 2. obscure adjective
    his origins and parentage remain obscure unclear , uncertain , unknown , in doubt , doubtful , dubious , mysterious , hazy , vague , indeterminate , concealed , hidden .
    (From The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus)
  • 3. obscure
    devoid of light XIV ; remote from observation; not manifest to the mind, hard to understand XV . — (O)F. obscur , latinized form of earlier oscur , escur :— L. obscūrus .
    (From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology)
  • 1. secure adj.
    fixed or fastened so as not to give way, become loose, or be lost.
    (From The Concise Oxford English Dictionary)
  • 2. secure adjective
    check to ensure that all bolts are secure fastened , fixed , secured , done up ; closed , shut , locked .
    (From The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus)
  • 3. secure
    (arch.) feeling no care; safe, certain. XVI . — L. sēcūrus , f. SE- + cūra care ( see CURE ); cf. SURE .
    (From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology)

Last edited by LoisWakeman; 11-14-2005 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 11-14-2005, 07:58 AM   #10
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Lois:

to deliberately make something hard to read or understand

It doesn't mean that, or rather, if it existed as a verb (it isn't in the COD) it woudn't mean that.

   
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