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In the OALD article "annoyance" the following sample sentence is given:

His behaviour caused great annoyance to his colleagues.

In the same article, the meaning of annoyance is defined as "the feeling of being slightly angry". Following this definition, great annoyance is simply anger.

So, why to speak of "great annoyance" instead of

His behaviour caused (great) anger to his colleagues.

What are the stylistic and semantic differences between the two sample sentences above?

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    Questions like this are an annoyance. What is annoying about them? The questioners are interested in a nuanced distinction between two words but have consulted only a single dictionary, and a "learner's" dictionary at that. An annoyance tries one's patience. Those whose patience is being tried feel the annoyance. They become annoyed. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 10 '18 at 11:20
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I did consult other dictionaries. Here's an example for you: Cambridge Dictionary defines "annoyance" as "the feeling or state of being annoyed" and in turn "annoyed" as "angry". So, please do not put me in charge of laziness just out of your mood! This was part of my original comment to you first comment but it has disappeared for reasons unknown to me. – Min-Soo Pipefeet Feb 10 '18 at 13:25
  • Min-Soo - If you consulted other dictionaries, you ought to say so in your question. The value of sharing your research is explained in our Details, Please meta post. Moreover, I think @Tᴚoɯɐuo is trying to use comments to help explain the difference between annoyance and anger, and not merely express a personal anger or annoyance toward you or this question. Finally, when heated arguments break out in comments, moderators often delete those comments. – J.R. Feb 10 '18 at 21:04
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Being annoyed is different from being angry. If I am angry at someone, I might yell at them. If I am annoyed, I might just roll my eyes and shake my head. If I am greatly annoyed, I might exaggerate the eye-rolling and head-shaking, but it's still not the same as being angry.

Naturally this depends on context and personality. There are people who yell even when they are only annoyed. There are people who don't yell even when they are furious.

In addition, "annoyed" can be a diplomatic substitute for "anger". In a professional environment it is often inappropriate to be or act angry, so instead we use "annoyed" (or "upset") to downplay the severity of the emotion.

HR Rep: Ted, we've called this meeting because we were told you got a little annoyed with your boss the other day.

Ted: Yes, I was a little upset.

HR Rep: Well, your coworkers said you were screaming and running around the office, yelling out some very rude words to describe your boss.

Ted: OK, I guess I was more than a little upset.

For this reason we can only guess what "great annoyance" actually means. More context is needed to understand what actions resulted from the annoyance of his colleagues. Only then we can tell whether the author is downplaying a more serious emotion (like anger), or if it means the colleagues simply rolled their eyes and shook their heads frequently and intensely.

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  • Taken together all 3 answers I've understood that on the one hand there is no qualitative difference between annoyance and anger but on the other hand the point at which ann. turns into ang. can be determined based on the (suppressed) reaction of the annoyed/angered person: as long as the p. does not turn offensive against the source of ann./ang. the feeling is called annoyance but as soon as the p. turns offensive the feeling is called anger. All 3 answers were helpful to me to a roughly equal degree. So my decision which answer to accept is due to chronological order only. Thank you all! – Min-Soo Pipefeet Feb 10 '18 at 18:33
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The annoyance is a stimulus, but anger is a response. Even if it’s largely involuntary ...

It is a somewhat hair-splitting distinction, but it might help to think of annoyance as an irritation (i.e. an itch), and anger as a scratch, or at least as the urge to scratch.

To respond to your comment: yes, we can say annoyed to mean that something has annoyed us. We have been irritated. We are itchy.

Now, someone punches you in the face, you're angry.

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  • I understand the difference between stimulus and response but I am somewhat confused by your answer. (Among other things because an itch is the urge to scratch. So, the comparison itch vs. urge to scratch would annihilate your original idea.) According to the OALD article linked by me, annoyance has two meanings: the first one is an emotional response, the second one is a stimulus of that emotional response. I was writing about the first meaning (emotional response) and the example sentence is from that one. Maybe you're writing about the second meaning of annoyance? – Min-Soo Pipefeet Feb 10 '18 at 8:48
  • I did say it's a bit of a fine distinction! The word annoyance implies a somewhat passive feeling of being irritated, anger is ... well, it's emotional, but that's about the point where it moves from passive to, well, active or aggressive. They're not sharply delineated black-and-white things, they are a sort of spectrum ... – Will Crawford Feb 10 '18 at 17:32
  • And no, the urge to scratch is separate from the sensation of the itch. Just not separated by very long ... – Will Crawford Feb 10 '18 at 17:37
  • annoyance at dictionary.com and scroll down to "Word Origin and History for annoyance". – Will Crawford Feb 10 '18 at 17:39
  • Taken together all 3 answers I've understood that on the one hand there is no qualitative difference between annoyance and anger but on the other hand the point at which ann. turns into ang. can be determined based on the (suppressed) reaction of the annoyed/angered person: as long as the p. does not turn offensive against the source of ann./ang. the feeling is called annoyance but as soon as the p. turns offensive the feeling is called anger. All 3 answers were helpful to me to a roughly equal degree. So my decision which answer to accept is due to chronological order only. Thank you all! – Min-Soo Pipefeet Feb 10 '18 at 18:33
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We can find something or someone annoying or an annoyance. The thing or person irritates or bothers us. We can turn our back on an annoyance, so to speak. Anger, on the other hand, is usually directed at a thing or person that has provoked us. Annoyance can transition to anger.

For example, when you keep kicking the back of the seat of the person in front of you at the movies, you are annoying them. At some point, that person may turn around and look at you and express their anger at having been annoyed for too long.

There is such a thing as "righteous anger", but there is no such thing as "righteous annoyance".

| improve this answer | |
  • Taken together all 3 answers I've understood that on the one hand there is no qualitative difference between annoyance and anger but on the other hand the point at which ann. turns into ang. can be determined based on the (suppressed) reaction of the annoyed/angered person: as long as the p. does not turn offensive against the source of ann./ang. the feeling is called annoyance but as soon as the p. turns offensive the feeling is called anger. All 3 answers were helpful to me to a roughly equal degree. So my decision which answer to accept is due to chronological order only. Thank you all! – Min-Soo Pipefeet Feb 10 '18 at 18:34

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