Word Hoard

Monday, January 15, 2007

Faith . . .

Or should I say "benefit of the doubt." I saw this phrase in Blindside the other evening, and I think it deserves some closer examination. The Free Dictionary defines the idiom: A favorable judgment granted in the absence of full evidence, and to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.

It seems to me that doubt doesn't have benefit to provide of itself, except to not be sucked into some untoward somethingorother. It also seems to me that "believing something good" and "favorably judging" is an other word for faith. I've always thought of faith and doubt as opposites, but the Latin root means waver. So I guess waver allows for back and forth, and catching doubt on the waver to the good would be capturing the benefit of the doubt.

I'm still conflicted with faith, which I think of as a firm thing, being so closely paired with doubt, which by definition isn't firm. The phrase then means that the good part of a wavering thing is when it is firm. A separate can of worms (Why is someone taking the trouble to can worms?) is the opposite of the phrase: detriment of the doubt, or maybe detriment of the faith.


  • At January 16, 2007 10:06 PM, Blogger Michael Covarrubias said…


    Hamlet's uses 'doubt' as 'suspect' when he hears of the visiting ghost.

    My father’s spirit in arms! all is not well;
    I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
    Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
    Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.

  • At January 17, 2007 2:29 AM, Blogger Daniel said…

    Suspect is right. I find it very suspect. It is nice that "doubt" has no firm definition.

    I guess Hamlet is using the detriment of the doubt to decipher the mystery.


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