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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Jennifer's Gems > What's in a Word?

by Jennifer Brown Banks

What's in a Word?
(Semantics for Dummies)

Here's a brainteaser:

What's the difference between a 'friend” and a person with whom you are friendly?


Join the club; you're not alone.

It seems that goo-gobs of folks use the words “friend” and “love” much too casually for my taste.

Perhaps you're one of them.

This frequent tendency seems to go undetected to the naked, untrained ear.  But, I guess it's because I make a living from words and their literal and figurative meanings.  Or perhaps it's just the teacher in me that sounds the red alarm when it happens.

I'm amazed at the cavalier attitudes associated with these very “heavy” terms.

Guys are particularly guilty of this misnomer.

For example, I was talking to this guy I know, who was sharing information about a “friend” of his.  He wanted to know if I knew this guy, since we had both worked at the same place around the same time.

When I inquired about this guy's name, he didn't know it!  He could only provide a description of him. Yet and still, he considers him a friend.

I've also had people label me as a “friend” when their actions clearly demonstrated that they didn't truly grasp the gravity or implications of this word.

Worse still, are the guys who introduce their significant other as their “friend” or “special friend.” What's up with that?

So, I thought that for the purpose of this article, I'd shed a little light.

Though these definitions are not to be considered “gospel”, most sane folks will find them valid and verifiable.


  1. A friend is a person who provides support---whether it's a word of encouragement during a difficult time, or attending your Tupperware party even though she doesn't need to add to her existing 100 piece collection.

  2. A friend keep his or her word, and if due to some unforeseen circumstances he or she can't, offers an apology and/or an explanation.

  3. A friend does not maliciously gossip about you to others.

  4. A friend takes your secrets to the death bed.

  5. A friend does not sleep with your man or your Ex.

  6. A friend forgives you for unintentional slights.

  7. A friend “keeps it real.  He or she tells you when your pants are too tight, when you're having a “bad hair day”, or that she saw your man with another woman.

  8. A friend is happy for your successes, and sad for your defeats.   

The Bible even honors this special relationship, and states “To have a friend one must show himself to be friendly.”

How about you? Are you a “friend” or a fraud? Can the folks in your circle count on you to come through when you promise to?

Only you can answer these questions.  And you should and act accordingly.

And while we're on the subject, here's what “love” should realistically be defined as.

  1. Love means having concern for the other person's feelings, and respecting them.

  2. Love is patient and kind.

  3. Love does not keep a tally of rights and wrongs, nor who does what.

  4. Love is an acceptance of the other person's strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Love does mean “having to say you're sorry.”

  6. Love endures hard times.

  7. Love means forgiving and moving forward.

For further clarification, consult the Bible---1ST Corinthians.

So the next time you have the occasion to use these very common nouns, notice with whom and how you're applying them.  A little discernment and a wise tongue goes along way towards avoiding future misunderstandings and injured feelings. TRUST!


Jennifer's Gems is a weekly column written by award-winning poet and writer, Jennifer Brown Banks. It is published every Wednesday. Click here to read her welcome letter.


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