Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Mr. Darcy: Do you talk, as a rule, while dancing?
Elizabeth Bennet: No… No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn. Makes it all so much more enjoyable, don’t you think?
My mother is a big fan of Pride & Prejudice, as much Jane Austen’s novel as the 2005 movie. To hear her tell it, it’s one of those films that she’ll watch over and over again whenever she sees it showing on TV, because every time she watches it, she takes away something new. And having watched it many times with her already, I have to say that I agree. However, it’s worth mentioning that while my mom is probably learning about the complexities of social protocol in early 19th-century England, I’m learning more about the differences in speech between the language of two centuries ago and that of today, including the differences in common vocabulary. “Taciturn” is one word that jumped out at me a few times while watching this movie, and though I didn’t think much of it at first, I realized after looking it up that it was more relevant to me and my life than I realized…
A “taciturn” person is one who is reserved in their speech, that is, someone who doesn’t talk much. It emerged in the late 18th century (close to the time period of Pride & Prejudice) from the Latin adjective taciturnus, meaning “silent” or “quiet”. This in turn came from tacitus, the past participle of the verb tacere (“be silent”) and the root of the adjective “tacit”, which means “understood or implied without being stated”.
So why do I consider the word “taciturn” relevant to me? Because it’s an adjective I could use to describe myself. Maybe not in every social situation (especially when I’m only in the presence of people close to me), but certainly in public. When it comes to the outside world, most of my communication is in the form of writing instead of speaking. Because of this, I would probably use the word “taciturn” to describe a character similar to me: withdrawn and mostly quiet, more of a listener than a talker. Much like the witty Elizabeth Bennet, who prefers to remain silent and observant during a dance, a person who comes off as “taciturn” on the surface could prove to be a wonderfully complex and engaging character in any story, particularly those as intricate as Jane Austen’s novels.
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?