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Eroding the meaning of 'reticent'

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 17 October 2014

The following letter was submitted to The Australian for possible inclusion in the edition for Friday 17 October 2014 but it was not selected for publication. The paper seldom publishes criticism of its journalists.

Literary editor's vocabulary confusion

In his front page story on Richard Flanagan’s winning of the Man Booker Prize, literary editor Stephen Romei writes that the author “had been reticent to talk about his father’s influence on the book” (“In dad’s memory: hard labour wins Booker”, 16/10).

The online Macquarie Dictionary warns that the word reticent should not be confused with reluctant. Surely this is what Romei had done here.

This increasingly common misuse erodes the meaning of the very useful word reticent. It is disappointing that someone who is paid to write about literature should add to this widespread confusion.

Garry Collins

Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past PresidentAuthor: Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
About: Garry Collins was ETAQ President from mid July 2005 to 15 March 2014. He taught English in state high schools for around 35 years and now tutors in English curriculum courses in the School of Education at the University of Queensland.
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