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Use of the word 'reticent'

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 6 April 2015

Rory Gibson is a journalist who has a regular column entitled "You've got male" which appears in the U on Sunday magazine that come comes with The Sunday Mail. After reading his column on Sunday 5 April 2015, I had the following email exchange:

Collins to Gibson

Dear Rory

I regularly enjoy your column and this weekend's offering about a fishing trip to New Zealand was no exception.

However, I wish to draw a vocabulary issue to your attention. In this week's column you wrote: "it made me reticent to venture out".

The online Macquarie Dictionary gives the following meaning for reticent: "adjective disposed to be silent; not inclined to speak freely; reserved". Further, the entry offers this usage advice: "The word reticent should not be confused with reluctant which means 'unwilling' or 'disinclined'."

I submit that reticent is a very useful word but its meaning is being eroded by being inaccurately used. The job of English teachers in schools is tough enough without having professional writers unintentionally setting unhelpful examples.

Regards

Garry Collins
Retired English teacher

Gibson's reply (which was unexpectedly prompt)

Quite right Garry. My apologies.

I wouldn't worry about any students being corrupted by my misuse of the word though. They don't read newspapers!

Regards,

Rory

Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past PresidentAuthor: Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
About: Garry was ETAQ President from July 2005 to 15 March 2014 and is currently President of AATE. After teaching in EQ high schools for around 35 years, he is now a sessional tutor in the School of Education at the University of Queensland.
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