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I didn't like smirk on jester's face.
Or
I didn't like grin on jester's face.

Smirk means to smile in a way that annoys, and grin means to smile widely that all teeth are shown in an amusing way. Both these words show negative connotation, but which one is more negative connotation than the other? It's a question in a textbook that baffles a lot because different teachers have different views and they don't agree at either option.

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    The words "smirk" and "grin" require an article: "the smirk" and "the grin".
    – James K
    Feb 6, 2022 at 11:32

2 Answers 2

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The words don't mean the same thing, so the question of "which is more negative" isn't really an answerable question.

"Smirk" is nearly always negative. It means an irritating smile. One would dislike a smirking face. A face with a smirk can be annoying. And as you say, a "grin" is a wide smile often with teeth showing.

Which is more appropriate depends on what the jester was doing - If the jester was grinning, it would not be appropriate to use "smirk". It is possible to dislike a grinning face. A face with a fixed grin can be grotesque. However a grin can also be a nice face.

So there is no answer to this question.

But for the exam the answer would probably be "smirk" because it is probably a badly worded question to test if you know the negative connotation that "smirk" has.

Consider

Which is more negative?

I don't like that cat.

I don't like that cockroach.

Usually, cockroaches are more unpleasant. But neither sentence has a more negative connotation. They are just different meanings.

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"I didn't like smirk on the jester's face" appears more negative in connotation that smirk means smiling in a manner to ridicule someone or to show your indignation while a jester usually wears a wide smile to amuse people. That's why grins seems more appropriate in this sentence.

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  • "I didn't like the smirk/grin on the jester's face." I thought you wanted to know which was more negative, which would be smirk. Why would anyone not like a cheerful grin? Feb 6, 2022 at 9:27
  • @KateBunting I would argue that “grin” has a neutral connotation, not a strictly positive one. Feb 8, 2022 at 1:13

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