To Put It Bluntly . . .

By Maeve Maddox

Adam Rubock asks for a discussion of

the difference between saying something bluntly, and blatantly saying something.

The word blunt came into the language around 1200 with the meaning “dull, obtuse.” At that time a “blunt person” would have been a stupid person.

In the 1580s blunt took on the meaning “abrupt of speech or manner.” This is closer to the way we use the word now.

The third definition of blunt given by the OED is “Rudely; without ceremony or delicacy; abruptly, curtly.”

When we say that so-and-so is “blunt,” we mean that the person puts thoughts into words without regard to the sensibilities of listeners or readers.

In speaking of an object, such as a “blunt sword” or a “blunt instrument,” the sense is still “dull” or “not sharp.”

blatant
The OED gives these definitions of blatant:

Of persons or their words: Noisy; offensively or vulgarly clamorous; bellowing.

Clamorous, making itself heard.

In recent usage; obtrusive to the eye (rather than to the ear as in orig. senses); glaringly or defiantly conspicuous; palpably prominent or obvious.

According the Etymology Online Dictionary, the word blatant was coined by Sir Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queen:

to describe a thousand-tongued monster representing slander; probably suggested by L. blatire “to babble.”

In the 1650s blatant came to mean “noisy in an offensive and vulgar way.” The current sense of “obvious, glaringly conspicuous” is from 1889.

Both words are popular on the web.

Blatant seems to be associated with the act of lying in particular. A search for “blatant lie” gets 136,000 hits. “Blatant liar” gets 83,400 hits.

The cliche “to put it bluntly” gets 4,860,000 hits.

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1 Response to “To Put It Bluntly . . .”

  • Brad K.

    I think of blunt object trauma – since, after all, we start with a verbal assault. Blunt objects exert force, on impact, with sharp edges, without intent to cut or pierce.

    Words spoken bluntly deliver force, or impact, but in a subdued fashion, in a presentation that deliberately avoids what we call drama or dramatics, avoids hysteria and other shows of passion. The impact is there, in blunt words, but not a show, or performance of wit or slander or other intimation of self-aggrandizement or disrespect or intimidation.

    Blatant, now, reminds me of Rick R. I hope Rick forgives me for recalling this particular conversation. See, Rick proposed a system of classifying people. Rick felt that everyone was an a–hole. He called his classification system the BLT System. One might be a Blatant a–hole, a Latent a–hole, or a Terminal a–hole. Rick’s career may have advanced from software engineering in the years since, but his words that day remain with me.

    Blatant – it walks like a duck, it squawks like a duck – hey, it’s a duck. That is blatant, all the signs and signals, the identifying features are brightly and loudly present and presented. A show, a presentation “larger than life”, a dramatic flair intended to emphasize a point or image by overplaying it. Blatant communications often carry an implied disrespect for the target, since respect would assume a reasonable and responsible person would “get the point” from common and casual communication.

    (Latent, from the BLT system, meant that one’s a–hole nature wasn’t apparent or active at the moment. Latent is a time measure, describing an event yet to happen. Terminal in BLT terms is used in the “end of life” meaning of terminal – all the features of an a–hole are in overabundant action, are all too apparent, and unbearably offensive. Sorry, Rick.)

    (Just to be complete, an a–hole would be what my mother calls a “grace” person – you have to have grace from above to tolerate or deal with a “grace” person. That is, disagreeable, burdensome, and you cannot avoid them.)

    Anyway, that is how I remember about “blatant”.

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