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In Other Words, Shy

By Evan Jenkins

The article spoke of a company’s “reticence to sign further contracts at that time.” It wanted to speak of the company’s “reluctance.”

Reticence is only one form of reluctance. And the words work differently.

“Reticence” means reluctance to speak up or come forward; silence; reserve. (Think RETIring, RETIcence.) And along with its adjective, “reticent,” our word is commonly followed by a word or phrase meaning “concerning”: His reticence about the accounts made the investigators suspicious.

Like “silence” or “reserve,” "reticence" is uncomfortable with an infinitive; “reticence to sign,” or “to” do anything, will offend every time. “Reluctance” and “reluctant,” though, work nicely with infinitives, as for example in “reluctance to sign further contracts.”


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Sept / Oct 08

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