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Communication, Friendship and Etymology

August 24th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Communicate” comes to English from Latin, the word is the past-paticiple of Communicare, from the root “commune” meaning “to talk with”. The word is built from Cum (together) and Munis (obliging, binding by obligation).

We have a very poor understanding of our use of language at times and etymology can help us dig out the truth of it and how we relate to it. The idea that communication might involve some sort of obligation and binding would be quite alien to some people.

When you think about it though, if we really wish to communicate with another, there are many layers of obligation involved. We are first obliged to listen to the other intently and to quiet our own minds to do so. We are obliged to listen to ourselves intently and communicate ourselves honestly. To know oneself and to be able to empty oneself are surely the foundations of communicating deeply.

Communication often leads to friendship or more. What is the root of that word? Can it tell us anything? Friend from Middle English “frend” from Ancient Saxon “freond” meaning “loving”. So a friend is someone we love. And we do so mostly by doing the hard-work described above in making sure we communicate well with our friends.

Some people would say this is all bullshit, of course, and I am willing to listen to their reasoning. If they are not prepared to listen to mine that effort would be in vain, however, as communication and friendship – as we all surely accept – must be mutual to be anything.

If you think this post might be aimed at you, you are correct. It would have been appreciated if you could have made an attempt at honesty in communication – something I know you pride yourself on yet are significantly incapable of, in my very limited experience. Silence, cutting out, part truths, deceptions, these are all forms of “communication” for sure, and ones you employ more often than you would care to admit. They do not lead to friendship but undermine attempts to communicate. And, yes, I can take hints. I just prefer not to as I believe that mostly it forces more honest communication to ignore them.

Information on English Etymology in this article comes from Walter W. Skeat’s “Concise Dictionary of English Etymology”.

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