Solicit. I was wondering about this word (oh, the things that excite word-nerds) and its better-known relatives. So I’ll start from the top.
Solicit (verb) early 15th century, from Middle French soliciter. It meant to disturb, trouble or agitate; it’s from the Latin solicitudo which means anxiety. From there, somehow, it evolved to mean to entreat or petition—so that’s the ladies of the night part. But lawyers? Yes, from the mid–fifteenth century it came to mean to further business (ah, I can see the link) and to manage affairs. No wonder our trans–Pacific cousins prefer the word ‘attorney’.
Solicitation (verb). If you write a begging letter, it might be called a letter of solicitation. So far so good.
Solicitude (noun), however, takes on a more compassionate hue. If you are in a state of solicitude, you are really, really concerned—maybe even to the point of bringing tea and toast, tissues and tisane to an invalid. It might also mean a cause of concern.
You are, of course, being solicitous (adjective).
What most of us don’t want is unsolicited (adjective) anything very much. For some reason we have omitted to put an ‘Australia Post Items Only’ or more bluntly ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on our letterbox; so we accumulate piles of unsolicited bumf from local businesses.
The most unwelcome unsolicited stuff, though, is, I think, advice. We usually ask advice when we have either:
- made up our minds already and want our decision confirmed, or
- really don’t have a clue what to do and hope someone wiser and more experienced in the matter to be advised on can assist us come to a sensible conclusion.
I’m sure we all I know finger-waggers—those who start sentences with: ‘What you must do…’ Well, if these people’s lives weren’t often a series of missteps I might be more open to listening. It’s like looking at a self-help book on, say, relationships, where the author happily lists their long list of failures before they became enlightened.
Guaranteed success? I think not.