One of the numerous presidential candidates already stumping the country has declared that he and his supporters are “not angry, but indignant.”
I’ve been trying to find a significant difference in meaning between these synonyms for “feeling wrathful.”
I suppose one difference might be that one can be angry over anything. For example, my ex-husband would become angry if the towels in the linen cupboard weren’t folded to suit him.
The adjective indignant, on the other hand, refers to anger provoked by something unworthy or unjust. Like being abused for folding towels “incorrectly.”
According to one of the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, indignant carries the connotation of “an emotion of anger mingled with scorn or contempt.”
So, I suppose that the candidate in question might mean that he and his supporters are not merely angry, but are at the same time angry and contemptuous of whatever it is that is making them angry.
In the cause of precision in language, I think that a more appropriate soundbite would be “we are not only angry, but also indignant.”