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January 22, 2015
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I realize this thread is old, however, people are still questioning the difference between "commonplace" and "common" and even "Common place"
I tend to agree with Regina grammaticae's view on this, although she goes into a variant definition of common, the vulgar one and the shared among a group one.
Original question, part 1: "What is the difference between commonplace and common"
Common seems to be agreed upon. Common means something that is typical, without distinction. It can also mean something that is shared by a group (hence the word communal), and it can have a negative connotation meaning something is boring, lackluster, or uninteresting (consider the word "commoner"). "It was common to find dirty socks on the teenager's floor"
Commonplace is almost synonymous with common, but it adds a little more. Commonplace can, in all circumstances that I can think of, be used/replaced with common if you're using the definition of common that means typical or usual. Commonplace cannot be used with the other definitions of common. Arguably, some might use commonplace with the same negative connotation as they use common, but it would sound odd, in which case using common would be acceptable. Commonplace adds more to the general theme of a scenario than common, based on the etymology of the word. This is not a strict hard rule. It does not answer when you can or cannot use commonplace/common, but it offers when you could or couldn't use it.
In our example of the dirty socks, to say "Finding dirty socks on the floor was commonplace" conveys to the reader a sense that things of a dirty nature were usually found. Using "common" here conveys to the reader that specifically dirty socks are usually found. Again, this is not a hard rule, but it gives us the opportunity to add some specificity to the idea we are trying to express.
Check out the etymology of commonplace, from Greek meaning "General Theme" and Latin meaning "Common to the place/location".
Anyway, feedback is welcome, and I'm humble enough to admit my own thoughts on this may not be 100% accurate.
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