The main meaning of the noun is ‘a person or thing that’s a threat or danger to others’: characters is Dennis the Menace.
Tweets are typically innocuous, ephemeral, and (dare I say it?
) trivial messages, and then there’s that cute little birdie forming the Twitter logo – how could anyone feel menaced by that?
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the legal case, ‘menace’ tends to evoke images of very large men of grim appearance, wielding serious weaponry so as to coerce someone into doing something.
Also, why was the tweet described as ‘menacing’ rather than ‘threatening’ or even ‘intimidating’?
When a person threatens someone, on the other hand, they make a strongly worded vow that very nasty or harmful things will definitely occur unless their victim goes along with what the threatener wants.
The instigator can threaten a person: The evidence on the OEC for ‘threaten’ shows that, with 155,566 occurrences, it crops up much more frequently in our language than either ‘menace’ or ‘intimidate’.
This reflects the fact that, apart from the main meaning above, the verb has several related senses in which a thing rather than a person does the threatening.
While all these three synonyms convey a sense of fear, danger, or unpleasantness being used to achieve an aim, there are some interesting nuances of meaning that differentiate them.
Unlike threaten and intimidate, ‘menace’ can be both a noun and a verb.
Although I want to focus on verbs, as a fan of the British comic , I can’t resist a quick diversion into ‘menace’ as a noun.
I can claim some linguistic justification for this, given that the statistical evidence on Oxford’s two-billion-word database of contemporary English, the Oxford English Corpus (OEC), shows that the noun is actually more common, with 9,632 instances, compared with 7,531 for the verb.