Friday, March 16, 2007

Taciturn v. Reticent

Taciturn v. Reticent

I actually love both of these words, although I probably favor reticent in my daily speech. Well, it's time I learned the difference. They both derive from Latin "tacit" for silent. The "re" prefix, meaning again, gives the inference that "reticent" means to be silent over and over again, thus, becoming a regular response, although not necessarily a constant condition. One could be reticent in the face of an argument or an IRS audit, but otherwise, conversational with friends and at work. Taciturn has no such prefix (or suffix) to give it additional meaning, thereby implying that the individual is already silent--the constant condition which was lacking from reticent. Her taciturn nature did not lend itself to litigation, but rather to being a legal librarian? Reticent has as one of its definitions "reluctant", as I note here, but not unwilling, while taciturn is described as "habitually". This lends further credibility to the idea that reticent is perhaps an event specific silence, while taciturn is a general silence. I am hardly taciturn since I enjoy singing in public, but I may be reticent when I need to hole up and write a lengthy brief. A taciturn Plaintiff's counsel may be grounds for malpractice, but a reticent attorney who does fails to accept a viable settlement offer before it is withdrawn will likely get brought up on bar charges. I'll try not to be so reticent in the face of uninspiring words that my friends will not think I am taciturn to this discussion forum.

2 comments:

Jordyne said...

I love these 2 words too... great choice! I agree-- taciturn seems to do more w/one's nature, habit of being vs. reticence from circumstance or some other external reason...

Stephen Conn said...

This seems right to me (I got it off the internet, which sometimes, but not always, proves useful for resolving such matters): A reticent person is reserved, not inclined to speak freely or often, disposed to keep quiet. A taciturn person is also inclined to silence and reluctant to take part in conversation. However, a taciturn individual is usually considered surly, dour, sullen, and severe. That is, a reticent person is pleasantly shy, withdrawn, and silent; a taciturn individual is unpleasantly so. Related words are silent, uncommunicative, reserved, still, and quiescent.