Friday, February 2, 2007

Friends and friendship


Word History: The relationship between Latin am cus "friend" and am "I love" is clear, as is the relationship between Greek philos "friend" and phile "I love." In English, though, we have to go back a millennium before we see the verb related to friend. At that time, fr ond, the Old English word for "friend," was simply the present participle of the verb fr on, "to love." The Germanic root behind this verb is *fr -, which meant "to like, love, be friendly to." Closely linked to these concepts is that of "peace," and in fact Germanic made a noun from this root, *frithu-, meaning exactly that. Ultimately descended from this noun are the personal names Frederick, "peaceful ruler," and Siegfried, "victory peace." The root also shows up in the name of the Germanic deity Frigg, the goddess of love, who lives on today in the word Friday, "day of Frigg," from an ancient translation of Latin Veneris di s, "day of Venus."
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. 2003

Synonyms for friend – “a person you know well and regard with affection and trust”
alter ego - a very close and trusted friend who seems almost a part of yourselfamigo - a friend or comradebest friend - the one friend who is closest to youcomrade - used as a term of address for those persons engaged in the same movement
buddy, chum, crony, pal, sidekick - a close friend who accompanies buddies in their activities
companion, associate - a person who is frequently in the company of another
confidant, intimate - someone to whom private matters are confided
girlfriend, boyfriend – friendship, sometimes amorous, between the genders
light - a person regarded very fondly; "the light of my life"
mate - informal term for a friend of the same sex

Synonyms for friend – “an associate who provides assistance”ally - a person who joins with others in some activityblood brother - a male sworn (usually by a ceremony involving the mingling of blood) to treat another as his brother

What does it mean to be “a friend” ?

IT seems that “friends” can be defined in many ways – though differentiated by the intensity of the relationship in which, for instance, soul mate, alter ego, bosom buddies or best friend would rank at the top of the list, possibly followed by lovers, siblings, offspring or those who share a strong common interest or bond in some way – with acquaintances or neighbours down at the bottom. But in all cases there are certain conditions which make these states possible or may drastically change them: primarily age, time, gender, social circumstance and geography; possibly also cultural upbringing, religion, language or economic status.

We can all remember the strong companionship of our childhood friends, and the friendships we formed at school or college but most of these become lost in time. It
becomes more and more difficult to form relationships as we grow older (though strangely enough this sometimes happens in the terminal stages of life)

Marriage and having children form the centers of other friendships – though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish marriage (or partnership) from friendship, just as it is difficult to distinguish parenthood, or having parents, from friendship.

As we find our place, or places, in society – or move from one part of the country, or world – our friendships may dwindle or disappear, in which old friends are replaced by new friends. But new communication technologies have made a considerable difference to existing friendships. When hand-written letters by ship were the only links with old friends, or family, communication faltered. But the telephone and now the computer and email have allowed old friendships to continue while spawning entirely new friendships in which time and distance have been obliterated. Even face-to-face communication has become possible, though mediated – so we have letter-writing friends email friends and chat-room friends.

Our cultural interests, our language, our religion and our economic status all play important roles in fostering friendships as do our social concerns – our politics, our enthusiasm for sports, for community affairs, for specialized interests like stamp-collecting or reading. But what we do for a living probably plays the major role in making and maintaining new friends. These are the many manifestations of what we might call social friends: as members of organizations like the food bank; as church members; as members of sports clubs or specialized interest groups, as work-related friends, or even shopping friends. However, in the hierarchy of intensity of relationships
these probably form the middle block, just above and possibly intermingled with neighbours or acquaintances.

But THE most important factor in considering “friends” is YOU. What kind of person are you ? What do you look for in a friend, if you look at all ? And if you become a friend of others, what kind of friend are you ? And remember that it takes two to tango.

Some people have no friends at all, which is not necessarily their fault. Most of us would agree that they are very unfortunate in not having friends. Some people have many, many friends – which might be classified as acquaintances - but no best friends.

Some friendships fail: they may start at an unsupportable level of intensity, or they may be lop-sided, or they may just collapse. Mediated or long-distance friendships are prone to this as there is a lack of feedback in which to judge an appropriate level of discourse or emotion.

And then there are false friends, those who cultivate relationships for selfish reasons – for monetary gain or sexual conquest. Sometimes, apparent friends aren’t friends at all as they are not able to offer truthful answers or trustworthy support; or they are suffused with” schadenfreude” – joy at the misfortune of others.

Paradoxically, sometimes strangers can be friends, though usually for the short-term. You might acquire a one-time friend while travelling, or an occasional friend while commuting on the same route. It seems that we can disclose our inner secrets or fears
more easily to strangers than our friends on the assumption that we are never going to meet them again. In the same category are those who might help you following an accident or injury – or as a response to your cry for help for whatever reason.

Being in the minority (religious, language, cultural, political or with specialized interests, even gender) can produce unexpected friends as we are on the lookout for
support and would willingly bend the usual social constraints to get it.

Finally, can animals be our friends ? There are many who would categorically state that their best friend was their dog (especially the blind) or their cats, or a pony, or a budgie.
But just as many would deny that assertion. What do animals give to friendship? (and what do we give to them ?) that would allow animals as friends ? And do animals include birds, fishes or insects. And what about trees and plants ?

We know that prison inmates can adopt creatures around them as friends. St. Francisof Assisi had animals as friends but what did St. Anthony in the Desert have as a friend – his god ? From the sublime to the apparently ridiculous, Tom Hanks in the film “Cast Away” had a basketball as his best buddy during his years in exile – and very believable and touching it was too.

So it appears as though having friends and friendship is a strong human need throughout life as it offers understanding, sympathy, trust and support so long as this exchange is two-way.

1.Forty words for “friends”
(According to Google/Wikipedia "40 Inuit words for snow" is a myth as they have a polysynthetic language which allows noun-incorporation resulting in the equivalent of a phrase in other languages). I’ve used this as a guide in establishing a working list of “friends”:

Neighbours who may become friends
Members of organizations (Food Bank, Lodges etc) as friends
Church or religious friends (Quakers, Catholics)
Other expatriates as friends
Wife, partner (or ex-wife, ex-partner) as friend (amongst the many other roles they play)
Offspring as friends (also as above)
Grandchildren, grandparents as friends (also as above)
Other family members (aunts, uncles) as friends (also as above)
In-laws and in-law family members as friends (also as above)
Acquaintances who may become friends
E-mail correspondents as friends
Telephone friends
Letter-writing friends
Friends through repetition (frequent unplanned meetings or communication)
Social friends (friends through community activities)
Work-related friends
Strangers as friends
Shopping (clerks, supervisors, telephone operators etc) who may become friends
Same genders as friends
Common interests (sports, drinking, book club etc) as friends
School friends (primary, medium education)
"University" friends (higher education)
Military/service friends
One-time friends (on cruises, in trains, airplanes, travelling)
Very intimate friends (bosom buddies)
Fairly close friends
Bosses/underlings as friends
People who help you (accidents, injuries) as friends
Very long-term friends
Long-term friends now separated but still in communication
"Cry for help" friends (someone in need, answered by another who becomes a friend)
Commuter friends (repeatedly taking same bus, train)
Specialized friends (sharing same interest, or offering advice in that area)
Underground friends (criminals, drug-users, sex-workers)
“Inteellectual” friends (authors, artists, musicians for whom you feel a kindred interest)
Minority friends (speak the same language, share the same culture as a minority
Age-related friends
Friends sharing babies/children as the common denominator
Divorced, separated, singles friends False friends (friends who turn out to be anything but)Failed friends (friendships which end in disaster)Soul mates (born to be friend

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