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I have a question about the usage of toward here:

Two top House Democrats today criticized the majority leader, Dick Armey, for what they called disparaging comments toward Jews made at a campaign appearance last weekend. Mr. Armey dismissed the complaints as partisan politics.

Two senses of "toward" is 1) in the direction of, and 2) in regard to. Does "comments toward" in the example mean the comments happened face to face (in-the-direction-of sense) , or the comments were about Jews (in-regard-to sense)?

  • toward here means concerning or in relation to : in the treatment or handling of <an attitude toward life> <measures taken toward the colonies> <impartiality toward the two — A. C. Sedgwick> <with malice toward none — Abraham Lincoln> <the bias of many economists toward government intervention — E. L. Dale> <an emotional block toward mathematics — P. B. Sears> c usually towards : in comparison with : with respect to <how does it stand towards my past — Thomas Hardy> – Itsme Jun 19 '15 at 20:02
  • "toward(s) Jews" here means "directed at the Jewish people as a whole" – Michael Dorgan Jun 19 '15 at 21:20
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"with respect to" is most likely the intended meaning.

If there were actually Jews present at Mr. Armey's campaign appearance and he literally faced them and directed his comments at them, then meaning #1 ("in the direction of") would apply.

However, it's much more likely that his comments at the rally were interpreted by some to be about Jews in general, in which case "with respect to" is the correct interpretation of "toward".

  • So, the "toward" in "comments toward" could easily be replaced with "about"? – meatie Jul 24 '15 at 18:09
  • In this context, "toward" and "about" are essentially equivalent. Even so, "toward" still carries an extra connotation of the comments being directed at the Jews instead of just about the Jews. In other words, "toward" might be slightly more aggressive. It's a subtle difference. – honkaboy Jul 25 '15 at 1:10

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