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I am finding an example to clearly differentiate and demonstrate the use of these two words. At the moment, I am relying more on my feelings to decide which word to use. Say I am writing an article that talks about a solution or framework, should I say:

  • It is a general solution to kill computer virus.
  • It is a generic solution to kill computer virus.

I want to show that the framework is normal, does it job, nothing fancy and that's about it. If the two sentences above are correct, what are the perceived meaning of each sentence?

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"General" carries a connotation of having broad applicability rather than being limited or specialized in some way that limits applicability. "All-purpose" comes to mind.

"Generic" connotes an unremarkability or plainness coming from a lack of development towards a specific application. "Vanilla" is used similarly.

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    Exactly right, and thus, in general, "general" has a positive connotation, while "generic" has a negative connotation. – Wayne Feb 13 '14 at 20:30
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    Generic is usually used to mean "unbranded". In this case it's not Norton, McAfee, etc. antivirus, but some "Brand X" or "House Brand" AV. It's often seen as being of lower quality. On the other hand, a general solution is usually considered adequate if it does the job. Only if it fails (or you like spending money) would you move on to a more specialized (and often more expensive) solution. – Phil Perry Jun 26 '14 at 15:17
  • @PhilPerry I would like to ask you a weird question about an expression in your comment. You said It's often seen as being of lower quality. in the middle of your comment. Is the part in bold a gerund? Would you give me some brief hint about the structure of that sentence? – Smart Humanism Apr 21 '18 at 7:17
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    @SmartHumanism : No. It is a present active participle. It is seen as possessing a lower quality. In other words, it is of lower quality. – MPW Apr 21 '18 at 12:06
  • @MPW Thank you for the comment. I get it, but I just didn't know the as + ...ing structure can be used. How about It's often seen being of lower quality instead, with as left out? – Smart Humanism Apr 21 '18 at 18:57
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Let me start by saying that 'kill computer virus' is unusual to hear. One would typically say 'remove computer virus' as they are understood to be only files or data in particular places that allow them to control the machines behavior and are in no way actually alive.

According to Merriam-Webster, the words are synonymous. However a bit of history might give better context as to their common use (in the U.S., which the only first-hand knowledge I possess.)

The term 'generic' became most popular in the U.S. with white-label goods that were sold in stores cheaper than their brand-name competitors. The 'generic' goods were essentially without a brand or manufacturer markings on the label. These have since been largely replaced by brands that are 'owned' by a given store as the 'generic' products were perceived to be inferior. Brands like 'Members Mark' (Sam's club/Walmart), 'Kirkland' (Costco) and others have replaced the traditional 'generic' goods as the inexpensive alternative. In this situation, 'generic' implied that there was no company to which one could complain if there was a defect with the item.

In my opinion, 'generic,' therefore, has a mildly negative connotation to it, whereas 'general' or even 'generalized' (for those that prefer 'utilize' over 'use') does not. My company would never offer a 'generic' solution for sale as the presumption would be that it would be inexpensive and potentially inferior to a brand-name solution.

In answer to your final statement:

I want to show that the framework is normal, does it job, nothing fancy and that's about it.

I would use 'general.' Given more freedom, one might also consider 'simple', 'adequate', 'minimal', 'minimalistic' or even 'elegant,' depending on what other characteristics you might wish to convey.

I hope this helps...

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    One would typically say “remove a computer virus” or “remove computer viruses”, actually. – Gilles Feb 13 '14 at 4:41
  • Concerning "generics", they have largely been replaced by "store brands". I can remember the heyday of generics, in plain white boxes with black text "Corn Flakes". Only a minimum of information (nutritional data, contact point, etc.) was given. Stores realized they could do better with colorful boxes with advertising for their products that could be more appealing to consumers. In contrast, "generic" pharmaceuticals are still branded, but off-patent copies (or even close knockoffs) of name-brand drugs, that are much cheaper than the original. – Phil Perry Jun 26 '14 at 15:22
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Prefer generic over general when you are using in computing or for program code.

Generic (Adj.) - written to operate on any data type, the type required being given as a parameter.

On the other hand,

General (Adj.) - not specialized or limited to one class of things (-this is one of the meanings).

  • Thanks. If it says "general solution", what is your understanding on it? – drhanlau Jan 22 '14 at 9:19
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    @cherhan that's okay but then a computer-pro would prefer the other word that addresses 'computing' in particular. Check out the dictionary reference. – Maulik V Jan 22 '14 at 9:25
  • thanks, I would love to know your perceived meaning of "generic solution" and "general solution" in the above instance? – drhanlau Jan 22 '14 at 12:34
  • @cherhan those both mean the same as I stated. Nevertheless, the latter statement would come from the mouth of a person from IT field! – Maulik V Jan 22 '14 at 12:38
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I believe the difference is in the way these two adjectives modifie the noun. general kind of affects the entity from the outside, as in stating its position/state, without regard to the object itself, in itself. For example, a general solution is a solution that can be adopted to address different problems/situations, though it itself might not have been constructed with the goal of commonality/sharing in mind - it just happened to suite different needs, i.e. general.

generic on the other hand is a quality of the thing itself, and as such affects it by definition, not stance. For example, a generic module is one built so as to fit different systems - it is designed specifically with that requirement in mind, so its workings are adaptable/configurable to tailor different conditions.

It also follows from the previous that the adjective general, and since it's a state, not a physical attribute or intended defining quality, implies being common to all at the same time, whereas generic might rather mean being applicable/tailored to one at a time, i.e. configurable/adjustable.

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In this case it is the same meaning.

Depending on the context generic and general are synonims, I mean whether you want use it in order to refer to a whole class or group you can use generic or general. To choose the best word, it depends of as it sounds into the sentence or by cultural reasons or so on.

For your case, for example for me sound better "It is a general solution to kill computer virus."

I advise you to consult the dictionary to know the different meanings.

  • Thanks Colo, I did consult the dictionary, however, the examples provided just not clear enough to assist me to differentiate the meaning. – drhanlau Jan 22 '14 at 12:35
  • -1 No offense, @Colo, but your English skills appear to be shaky enough that you should not be offering advice on the proper use of English. – Phil Perry Jun 26 '14 at 15:10

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