A Froward Child

William Blake Ghost of a Flea
Strange visions… ‘Ghost of a Flea’ by William Blake

On the home front this week I’ve been getting a lot of grief over the overly idealistic positions I take on a number of topics –  in other words I’m found to be wrong, or in denial by my family and friends.  So, I find myself in the very uncomfortable position of either having a very strong disagreement with friends and family – or – to shut up and sit on my hands on certain topics. – [Dr. Laura Schlessinger used to call this, ‘shutting up and being polite’]

Fortunately Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, [also a triple W – gotta love it, it alliterates] my go to guy for all things philological, has rescued me in my extemis, by providing me with just the right word to understand my predicament, I’m being froward [apparently].

From Michael Quinion’s newsletter in my emailbox this morning:

The first part of this archaic word could at one time stand alone. Fro is based on Old Norse frá, from which we also get from. We now know it only in to and fro, which is a scaled-down form of the Middle English come toward and go froward.

Froward means leading away. Old English also had fromward in the same sense, though they later diverged. Fromward retained its literal sense of direction — until it died out in the eighteenth century — whilst froward moved to the metaphorical.

By the fourteenth century, froward was attached in particular to a person who figuratively moved away from others by doing the opposite of what was asked of them or what other people thought reasonable. A froward person was hard to deal with — obstinate, peevish, perverse or childish. Indeed, a difficult child was often said to be froward:

Human Life is, at the greatest and the best, but like a froward Child, that must be play’d with and humour’d a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep.

An Essay on Poetry by Sir William Temple, 1690.

That sense remained until froward slipped out of daily use in the latter part of the nineteenth century. If you read it today in a newspaper it’s either in a quotation from an old work or — to return to my starting point — a misprint for forward.

At least now I can reframe my experience in a psychologically bearable way, I’m not completely crazy, an idiot, or a dupe of the climate denial conspiracy, I’m merely a froward child.

My buddy Phi had to remind me as I was writing this:

Truth is effective.
If you find you are not being effective, you don’t have the Truth.


Which also reminded me of something one of my other favorite W people once said:

Truth cannot be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.”
~William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

Which leads me to reiterate my basic position, idealistic though it may be, the best outcomes to such important issues as how we as Global Humanity structure our economies, use energy, and our relationship with the rest of Nature will not be achieved by compromising our Liberal values that were hacked out of History at the cost of the sweat, toil and blood of our ancestors. Our rationalizations and prevarications discredit their achievements.

When Science cannot give us the certainty we desire, we must use DIFFERENT CRITERIA.

What those criteria ought to be is a wonderful topic of conversation among friends.  Leave a comment and let me know what think.


PS – That other W also reminded me “Opposition is true Friendship.” [Marriage of Heaven and Hell]

1 thought on “A Froward Child

  1. Pingback: A Froward Child Redux – some personal vindication, I may not be a complete dupe, and the inexorable advace of the Citizen Scientist | The Coraline Meme

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