While writing yesterday, I paused to think of le mot juste, and it turned out that straightforward was juste the mot I needed. I paused again, then, to think a little more about that word, straightforward.

It’s quite a straightforward word, isn’t it?

It’s simply the words straight and forward joined together, with the word’s meaning very clear from this combination. No complicated etymology or obscure meaning to work out here. Straightforward is very straightforward.

In that sense, it’s a nice example of an autological word: a word that embodies the conceept it expresses, e.g. short is a short word, pentasyllabic has five syllables etc.

What I like about the word straightforward is that there’s still a little poetry to it though. A little bit of metaphor. If you think about it for a moment, it’s not completely literal. It’s original sense was of course in reference to movement, and dates to the 16th century. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it commonly came to be used in the more abstract sense we now use it.

And it’s not such a big leap, is it? We tend to think of time and language in terms of distance and place, so why not think of a simple concept in terms of a both that doesn’t deviate and goes right where we want it?

7 thoughts on “Straightforward

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