I love board games. A love shared by many in my extended family. However, games don’t always end well. The competitive gene is in all of us. It didn’t skip a generation, or concentrate itself in one cousin over another. We all have it. In spades.
Three of my cousins were playing Scattergories on Christmas day. For those of you unfamiliar with Scattergories, it is a game in which you complete a list of categories with answers beginning with a particular letter. You score a point for each acceptable answer you list that is not matched by another person.
The letter for this particular round was L. The category? ‘Things found in the kitchen.’ One of my cousins wrote ‘litter’, arguing that it is another word for ‘rubbish’ and is therefore found in the kitchen. The other two disagreed with this answer. Arguments ensued. (Yes, arguments plural. More than one. For the remainder of the day. And probably continuing to the present moment.)
My gut agrees with the majority. Litter suggests rubbish that has been discarded inappropriately, rather than that found in a bin. But what does the Macquarie Dictionary have to contribute to this debate? (Note: I have included only the entries listed under noun, and stopped listing ‘litter’ definitions after the fifth entry):
litter noun 1. scattered rubbish, especially in public places. 2. a condition of disorder or untidiness. 3. a number of young brought forth at one birth. 4. a framework of canvas stretched between two parallel bars, for the transportation of the sick and the wounded. 5. a vehicle carried by people or animals, consisting of a bed or couch, often covered and cutrained, suspended between shafts.
rubbish noun 1. waste or refuse material; debris; litter. 2. worthless stuff; trash. 3. nonsense.
So… what does this mean? Litter appears as a definition for rubbish. But rubbish only appears within the wordier definition of litter. Synonymous? Or a case of one word encompassing the other; i.e., all litter is rubbish, but not all rubbish is litter?
I’m undecided. Please help me complete today’s lesson.
What do you think? Are ‘litter’ and ‘rubbish’ synonymous?