I was trying to find a way to use ken in a sentence

I want to extend human ken of the biodiversity on earth.

Oxford Dictionaries defines it as

[IN SINGULAR] One's range of knowledge or sight.
‘politics are beyond my ken’

But when I translate my sentence, Google is not translating "ken" and creates nonsense.

So what would be the proper use of the word ken? I want to say that

I want to expand the range of human knowledge on biodiversity sciences.

  • 3
    Ken is not a terribly common word. Are you expecting an automatic translator to handle it well? – Nathan Tuggy Sep 26 '16 at 3:33
  • @NathanTuggy This is exactly the sort of question which poses a dilemma. A mere link to a good dictionary will provide the definition of the noun ken. However, that is not considered sufficient for a useful answer, and answers in commentary are discouraged. What to do? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 26 '16 at 4:40
  • @P.E.Dant: I personally do not discourage answers in comments if the question fits a close reason prima facie because of the nature of the comment-answer. In this case, though, I'm not entirely sure the question should be closed at all, and there's a deeper answer that could be provided. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 26 '16 at 4:48
  • @M.Beausoleil Please do not rely on "google." There's nothing authoritative about the company; they're just another bunch of capitalists trying to make a profit, and it is a bad idea for a learner of English to imagine that Google translate is a useful tool in learning English. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 26 '16 at 5:24
  • @NathanTuggy I suppose this belongs on Meta, but where is the deeper answer? Ken means know, and it's no more deep nor complicated than that. It is trivial to create a four paragraph bloviation on the subject, but in the end, all you will have communicated to the quærent is that ken is an archaic verb that means know! – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 26 '16 at 5:30

"Ken" derives from Middle English but, as far as I know, is chiefly a word used colloquially by the Scottish, which is probably why Google translate doesn't handle it correctly. As a (more or less) regional colloquialism you probably shouldn't use it unless you're deliberately trying to imitate people from that region, otherwise it'll feel forced and unnatural.

Also, not everyone will understand "ken" or "beyond my ken", unless they've heard it before and recognize the idiom.

I most commonly see "ken" in writing from authors who are trying to imitate a Scottish accent, "I dinna (don't) ken what yer (you're) sayin', lassie (young female), because I'm a wee (little) bit deaf in my right ear" and so on.

Note this isn't necessarily an accurate representation of how the Scottish accent sounds. It's just the way it's often popularized. If you're unfamiliar with the Scottish accent I recommend you look up videos on YouTube. There are actually many different accents from around the Northern part of the U.K., some of which are difficult to understand for anyone who isn't a local.

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