People who are “liberal” have taken quite a beating the past few years by people who profess to love “liberty.” The words “liberal” and “liberty” have the same pedigree, leading back to the Latin “liber,” meaning “free.”
People who are “liberal” have taken quite a beating the past few years by people who profess to love “liberty.”
The words “liberal” and “liberty” have the same pedigree, leading back to the Latin “liber,” meaning “free.”
The original sense of “liberal” as “suitable for a freeman; not restricted” survives in the terms “liberal arts” and “liberal education.”
In the political arena, to be liberal is to favor “reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual.”
Additionally, liberal can mean “giving freely; generous”; “large or plentiful; ample; abundant,” as in liberal portions at a restaurant; “not restricted to the literal meaning; not strict,” as in a liberal interpretation; and “tolerant of views differing from one’s own; broad-minded; specifically, not orthodox.”
As for “liberty,” its first meaning is freedom from any sort of arbitrary control.
In a political sense, liberty is “the sum of rights and exemptions possessed in common by the people of a community, state, etc.” Related terms include “civil liberties” and “political liberty.”
For a sailor, “liberty” is a temporary relief from duties and permission to go ashore. However, a sailor who “takes liberties” while on liberty could end up under arrest.
The phrase “take liberties” can mean “to be too familiar or impertinent in action or speech,” or “to deal (with facts, data, etc.) in a distorting way.”
Both of those seem to be happening frequently these days.
So it’s possible for “liberty” to be “too free.”
I’m not at liberty to say when or where.
Greeted as deliberators?
If “liberate” is to set free, does “deliberate” mean to deprive of freedom?
Actually, the “liber” in “deliberate” comes from the Latin “libra,” for “a scales.” Thus the notion of weighing and balancing.
To deliberate is “to think or consider carefully; especially, to consider reasons for and against a thing in order to make up one’s mind.”
Deliberation is what a jury or judge — sometimes even a president — does before making a decision.
As an adjective, “deliberate” carries the additional sense of “unhurried and methodical.”
Some decisions must be made quickly. Most good decisions are made with due
Oh, say what?
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the ... wild and savage?”
That’s what the ancestors of “brave” once meant, but that was long before Francis Scott Key’s day.
The principal meaning these days is “willing to face danger, pain or trouble; not afraid,” which is, of course, how “brave” is used in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It traces back to the Latin “barbarus,” which came from the Greek “barbaros,” for “foreign, strange, ignorant.”
In the ancient world, a “barbarian” was any “alien or foreigner,” but especially, depending upon who was running the show, a non-Greek, non-Roman or non-Christian.
Later refinements of “barbarian” incorporated lack of refinement: primitive, savage, lacking culture, coarse or unmannerly, cruel, uncivilized.
Judging other cultures can get tricky. Sometimes, barbarism is in the eye of the beholder.
Barry Wood is a Rockford Register Star copy editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.