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Underbelly
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2013/01/01
2:47am
Raffee
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Which definition do you accept for the word?

1. A weak point of a country, society, etc.

2. Things that unpleasant about a place, country, etc. that are kept hidden

The first one is actually included in the second, but the problem is that it’s INCLUDED in it; they are not the same, yet I’ve seen both.

2013/01/01
11:57am
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Robert
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The metaphor for seaminess is outright unjust- classical arts can not have enough of the underbelly, not to mention where babies come from.  

The 2 senses are quite distinct, weakness and seaminess, though can be connected.

2013/01/03
4:10am
Raffee
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Come to that, Happy New Year! :)

2013/01/04
10:23am
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Glenn
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This is my gut reaction. I did do a gut check, looking it up in dictionaries, but it is always a bit suspect when my visceral notions are confirmed by research.

When underbelly is used literally, (e.g. of an animal) it means a weak spot, or simply refers to that area of the anatomy. If it is used figuratively (e.g. of a people, a locale, a society, a corporation), it means something dirty and/or hidden.

I’m not sure why there would be this change in connotation when used figuratively. But underbelly used figuratively has strong pejorative tones. When under is not literal, it often conveys a negative nuance. perhaps the under– influences the figurative meaning.

If I want to use an anatomical metaphor for a weak spot, I would use Achilles’ heel.

2013/01/08
6:27am
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Glenn
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Last night on the season 3 premier of Downton Abbey, I heard the use of underbelly in a figurative sense clearly with the primary meaning of a weak spot. It lacked the connotation of something sordid. In this case, the use is in reference to the Grantham family.

“She’s like a homing pigeon,” bemoans Countess Grantham. “She finds our underbelly every time.”

Is that because it is British English? Because it is period language? Or because I am flat wrong?

2013/01/08
11:27am
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Glenn said

Last night on the season 3 premier of Downton Abbey, I heard the use of underbelly in a figurative sense clearly with the primary meaning of a weak spot. It lacked the connotation of something sordid. In this case, the use is in reference to the Grantham family.

“She’s like a homing pigeon,” bemoans Countess Grantham. “She finds our underbelly every time.”

Is that because it is British English? Because it is period language? Or because I am flat wrong?

I heard it Sunday night also, but did not think to post. Honestly, I always thought of it in Lady Grantham’s terms. I never noticed the sordid connotation until this thread.

BTW, I am from SW Missouri.

Emmett

2013/01/08
11:46am
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Robert
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If it’s a weak spot, does the pigeon aim to attack or to protect? -if pigeons are ever known for such acts.

It might be just a soft spot that the pigeon comes home to, and maybe takes advantage of a little.  Except homing pigeon is associated with keen navigation, going out or in, the kind of destination irrelevant.

A nice piece of confused murky writing, by no less than Julian Fellowes.  

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