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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Forthright v. Forthcoming

About a year ago, a friend of mine was experiencing an exciting development in his life. This exciting development followed a very painful time in his life, and was even indirectly related to it. Eventually, details of this positive element began leaking their way to me. It's highly complicated, but the delay of information created some suspicion for me.

Of course, I made things far more complicated.

At one point, I emailed this friend and asked him why he han't been more forthright with me. In every other area of our friendship he has always been quite open. Why the difference now?

I couldn't understand why he took such offense. He wrote me back, deeply greived and quite upset that I would say he hadn't been forthright. Then I looked it up: "straightforward and honest." My heart sank. Now I understood his pain. He thought I was saying he wasn't being honest with me. In essence, I was saying that he had lied to me.

I scrambled to try to figure out what word I did mean. Then, I realized, I meant forthcoming: "willing to divulge information." I simply meant I was disappointed to hear his news through the "grapevine" but ended up calling this friend a liar.

Luckily, he knows me well enough to know I have not mastered the english language. He quickly received my apology and we've been able to move on.

However, the word had a meaning, and the meaning did not reside in what I desired it to have. It can sound really personal and deep; caring and understanding, to say that words are defined by all of us...but isn't that dangerous? Isn't it possible that if I misuse the word forthright (or legalism, or predestination, etc.) that I'm not really giving "my definition" but rather showing my ignorance? I think my friend and I would admit that my "new understanding" of forthcoming was not due to cultural pressures, or higher understanding, but to ignorance.

But do I have the courage to admit that?


  • At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    you just did.

  • At 12:11 PM, Anonymous rachel said…

    thanks, danny!

  • At 1:01 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    I see where you're going with this post, particularly as it relates to discussions from an earlier post concerning existentialism. I think, though, that you might be taking the "forthright vs. forthcoming" example to an unnecessary conclusion.

    In my mind, there's a big difference between a casual misuse of a word and the notion that we define our own realities. The fact is, human beings do decide what the definitions of words are. Over time, languages change. Words change. Sometimes in nuance and sometimes in their outright definitions. There were many languages spoken at the tower of Babel, but English wasn't one of them. It developed long after the fact.

    Reality hasn't adjusted itself because you failed to say what you meant.

    Am I reading too far into this?

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    no jer, i admit that language changes over time.

    in fact, that's part of the beauty of the Bible. no one speaks koine greek anymore, or the hebrew dialect of the Bible. this preserves the purity of those definitions because those words aren't changing anymore. you're right, any living language is a changing language.

    however, i do think that we can be lazy at times, and just due to our own ignorance or exposure, we use words improperly. we begin using a word in a way it wasn't intended.

    i think the christian has a great opportunity when people speak of legalism. they just may mean acknowledging rules or living with more piety than they are comfortable...but it gives us an opportunity to discuss what the word really means; it's implications on salvation and what grace is really all about.

    by the way, "christian" is one of those words that has morphed. when i use it, i mean it in the Biblical sense..."those who are disciples of Christ."

  • At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    for a bit of levity, I must remind of a past misuse of the english language: " she was protruding toward the stairs..."

    ps your sister made me do it!


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