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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:41 am

• reticent •

Pronunciation: re-dê-sênt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Uncommunicative, reluctant to speak or express oneself, taciturn.

Notes: We bring up this word because an erroneous usage is creeping into US dictionaries: the sense of "reluctant to do anything", as in, "I'm reticent to come in to work today because of all the black ice on the streets." Most dialects of English do not allow this meaning. It generalizes the original meaning and thus trivializes the word itself. To keep English more precise, we should use this adjective only in the sense given above. The noun, reticence, should be used the same way.

In Play: The remarkable aspect of this misused term is that it has so many interesting legitimate uses: "Bill was understandably reticent about the lipstick on his collar" or "Hillary became adamantly reticent when asked about the chocolates under the couch." Let's restore this word to its rightful semantic space.

Word History: So, what's new? Today's Good Word, like about half the words in the English language, comes from Latin. This time the source is Latin reticentia "silence" from reticere "to be silent", a verb based on an earlier form, retacere. The root of this verb, tac-, also underlies tacitus "silent", the origin of English tacit "understood but not spoken" and taciturnus "of few words", the source of our taciturn.
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Postby tcward » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:22 am

"Taciturn" always makes me think of Robert Frost's poem, Choose Something Like a Star:

Some mystery becomes the proud.

But to be wholly taciturn

In your reserve is not allowed.


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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:55 am

And in Portuguese we call "..." reticências.

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Postby Perry » Mon Apr 24, 2006 2:26 pm

Simply put: someone who is reticent doesn't want to put in his/her two cents worth.
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Postby Stargzer » Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:05 pm

OOH! Good one, Perry!

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