My New York Times Word of the Day: Forfend


                                         Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television for Masterpiece

Gotta love Maureen Dowd for her vocabulary. She frequently sends me to the dictionary. And she did it again today with “forfend.” One can grasp the meaning from the context of the sentence, “So heaven forfend that I would enjoy watching Lord Grantham erupt in horror when his youngest daughter wants to marry the cute Irish chauffeur.” But I always find it wise to look it up. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “forfend” as 1. to forbid; 2. to ward off; prevent and says it is archaic. I say bring back these archaic words. It also fits beautifully given that she was expressing her views about the popular PBS hit, Downton Abbey, which takes place in the early part of the last century. She refers to last week’s review by her colleague, Alessandra Stanley, of the show’s new season. Stanley defined it as a “show about class differences that panders to contemporary notions of democracy and equality.” Personally, I have been enthralled with the show but not because of its focus on class differences. Rather, I love it for showing human relationships in all forms, among the characters upstairs and down. The frosty relationship between the sisters, Lady Mary and Lady Edith; the American-English differences between Cora and Robert…errr should I say, Lord Grantham and Lady Grantham; the sweet counterpoint relationship of Anna and Mr. Bates; the stifling but still lovable stodgy butler. By the way, my favorite line from Stanley’s review was the “show could easily be dismissed as a Harlequin romance novel in morocco leather binding, but it casts a spell on viewers not unlike the allure of a Harry Potter novel.”  The show is, indeed, worth watching for many reasons. The writing is superb. Maggie Smith, who plays the dowager, has hilarious and most of the priceless lines, the latest one being, “Grandmothers are meant to interfere.” I second that. Now, I have to figure how to incorporate “forfend” into my vocabulary. Let me know if you figure it out.


About msvoss

Melinda Voss, MPH, APR, is a freelance writer, editor and public relations specialist. A staff writer for The Des Moines Register and Tribune for nearly 26 years, she has won regional and national awards and taught undergraduate and graduate journalism courses at three universities. In 1999, she earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Minnesota after co-founding the Association of Health Care Journalists in 1997. Voss initially served as the association's unpaid coordinator, then became the executive director from 1999 to 2004. She then became the public relations director for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and served in that position until November 2012. She earned her APR, an accreditation in public relations, in 2011.
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