Archive | August, 2016


17 Aug

The word “outspoken” is of the same category as “well-spoken” and “softly spoken”; one of those odd adjectives where a past participle is used where a present participle would be more logical. In Logical English, a well-speaking person speaks well, a softly speaking person speaks softly, and an outspeaking person speaks out. Another verb with a similar adjective is (well-)behaved. Related are (well-)read and (long-)lived (if you pronounce the i as in “living” rather than “alive”)  but those have a sense of accomplishment which makes the past tense relevant.

I  used to think there was a verb, to “outspeak”, which was transitive: if I outspoke you, it meant I had beaten you in an argument. People described as “outspoken” tend

  1. not merely to proclaim their views without fear
  2. but also to hold unpopular views.

When I first read about people satisfying (1) and (2) described as “outspoken”, I guess I imputed meaning (2) instead of meaning (1) to the word. But whereas (1) has positive connotations of bravery and vision, (2) has negative connotations of contrarianism or eccentricity. For how long did I  misinterpret a journalist’s description of the  “outspoken” subject as blame instead of praise? Somewhere in my mid teens, I’d guess.

Turns out, there is a verb “outspeak”, which can mean either “speak out” or “speak better than”. My early self is vindicated. I would would hesitate to use the verb now, though: I might well be misunderstood.