Tuesday, February 24, 2009


affable [AFF-uh-bəl]
adj. easy to talk to

[Derives from Latin affābilis, af- ("in the direction of") + fā- ("speak") + bilis ("fit for")]

What I like about the word affable is its narrowness. It's not broadly a synonym for friendly ("inclined to approve, help, or support") or cordial ("courteous and gracious"): Affable is limited to describing someone who makes you feel comfortable in conversation with him.

We have dozens of words in the friendly family, some broad, others narrow: affectionate ("displaying warmth, loving"); amiable ("having or showing pleasant, good-natured personal qualities"); amicable ("friendly or peaceable"); compatible ("capable of existing or living together in harmony"); conciliatory ("acting to gain someone's friendship or goodwill"); congenial ("agreeable, suitable, or pleasing in nature or character"); courteous ("having or showing good manners; polite"); gregarious ("fond of the company of others; sociable"); harmonious ("marked by agreement in feeling, attitude, or action"); hospitable ("receiving or treating guests or strangers warmly and generously"); irenic ("tending to promote peace or reconciliation"); solicitious ("expressing care or concern"); and sympathetic ("having harmony of feeling between persons of like tastes, opinions, dispositions").

In Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg describes a scene where he was scheduled to meet with Henry Kissinger at Richard Nixon's home in San Clemente, but instead was shunted off to Kissinger's aide, whom he found easy to talk to:
General (Alexander) Haig and I went off to the other side of the house and had lunch. Haig was very affable.


Travis said...

I like the way you dressed up Haig's photo. He looks more like an SS officer from outerspace than ever before. Remember when he was, "In charge?" Or was it, "control?" Can't remember. Uggh!

Lexicon Artist said...

I colored with his eyes -- in the B&W pic -- because I recall reading a book about Henry Kissinger, where Kissinger said when he first met the General -- I'm not kidding -- "Al Haig had the most penetrating blue eyes." Sounds mighty gay to me, not that there's anything wrong with that.