Sunday, November 15, 2009

"reticent" and "reluctant" are not synonymous


I implore Americans to stop misusing "reticent"

the
French should stop too

7 comments:

Mythical Monkey said...

By "reticent," I assume you mean "silent or uncommunicative." Whereas "reluctant" would be "unwilling, hesitant, showing aversion."

You for example are often reluctant, but never reticent.

Whereas I am both, which is where the confusion arises ...

The problem with language, as Katie-bar-the-door and I discussed this morning when the word "comprise" came up while she was editing a contract proposal, is that a word is used incorrectly so often that the correct usage sounds odd and causes more confusion than it's worth. I mean if you said to someone "The Beatles comprise John, Paul, George and Ringo," they'd look at you like you're a lunatic. You'd spend so long explaining yourself that the point you were initially trying to make would be long gone. I guarantee you, in a hundred years, if the word "comprise" exists at all, it will mean it's opposite ...

But we've discussed this before.

mister muleboy said...

I mean if you said to someone "The Beatles comprise John, Paul, George and Ringo," they'd look at you like you're a lunatic.

I would get on my knees and worship the speaker.

But your point is taken. No one, though, would blink if you said "I'm reluctant to go with them because they're untidy," and thoughtful, learned people would look at someone saying "I'm reticent to go with them. . ."and think shithead.

Well, some self-impressed, self-proclaimed thoughtful, learned people. Such as the judgmental me.


And anyone who says "my criteria for choosing is . . . " wil be shot on cite

Little Johnny Jewel said...

Would the usage

'The Beatles are comprised of J, P, G and R' be incorrect?

Because that's how I've always heard it used.



Eliding the whole The Beatles are vs. The Beatles is controversy.

mister muleboy said...

alas, mister jewel, you prove the monkey's point.

The word "comprise" is analogous to "include," except it contains the entirety rather than a portion.


So the Beatles include George and Paul, but comprise John, Paul, George, and Ringo.


This correct usage last appeared somewhere in 1975, and only then by George Will, who probably noted "my bowtie collection comprises ugly ties."

Readers and listeners under the age of fifty might reasonably never have heard it used correctly.

Leading to a "correction" of its accepted use, to include comprised of [which likely evolved from "composed of"; I'd have to read up on when and why the change began].

If you use it as it was historically used (I'll drop the word "correctly"), you'll get strange stares and be corrected.

Of course, my experience was included of only conversations with musicians and roustabouts. And Shakespearean types, etc. Maybe the world uses it as it was historically used.

Not.

As for The Beatles are v. the Beatles is, I've always loved the controversy. In some ways, it reveals a speaker's heritage, and the speaker's age. It also probably reveals their philosophy, dunnit? If the Beatles was the sum of the four players, then the Beatles are pretty good. If they exceeded the sum of their parts, then the Beatles is amazing.

All of this stuff is just play, of course -- but why do my ears ring and hurt when I hear something that "offends" my sensibilites [and why can't I hear my own errors, which whistle in the aural cavities o' others. . . .]?


Pussy!

mister muleboy said...

[the last bit was thrown in because, as some faithful readers o' this column know, the word is despised by your humble author, and brings on a desire to hear a thousand pieces of chalk scratching a thousand chalkboards. . . .]

Little Johnny Jewel said...

>>As for The Beatles are v. the Beatles is, I've always loved the controversy.


I cannot abide The Beatles is

This makes the SNL after-the-monologue toss to the first commercial a minefield.


We've got a great show, The Black Eyed Peas is here, so stick around, we'll be right back...

Shudder.

Lupner said...

"And here it is -- The Beatles!"