Monday, March 12, 2012


In his excellent weekly newsletter on language, Michael Quinion showcases "froward:" 
 ...means leading away. ... 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: ... That sense remained until froward slipped out of daily use in the latter part of the nineteenth century. 
Fine, with the observation that it probably was the concept as well as the form that is lost in the winds of time.  It is beyond thinking in a democratic age that we would have the nerve to scold anyone with "froward;" certainly not children, whose license for frowardness has been on automatic review at least since the occupation of People's Park.  Most of the observations seem to be 19th Century schoolmasters testily rebuking the brats, but the online King James Bible gives 22, mostly from Proverbs (but Deuteronomy 32:20: "...  for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith").   I see that you can occasionally find it quoted in a distinguished modern publication. 


jed said...

Now of course we know they are ADHD or disruptive.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Deuteronomy 21:20.

Buce said...

You sure? I read 21:20 as:

And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

32:20 (in total):

And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Froward is the gateway drug to drunken gluttony.