What is a Friend… Really?

Family Love Friend


UPON GRADUATING FROM UNIVERSITY WHERE they saw it fit to award me with degrees & certificates, my Journey Path brought me to a Wonderful Island Paradise.

New Country. New People. New Culture.  Taiwan is rife with friendly people – several of whom would eventually become my friends.

Within a few hours of stepping onto Taiwanese Soil, I secured employment in a very Taiwanese bar with a very American name called 9th Street Pub. It had a 30 foot Masonic Statue of Liberty out front that looked down on its Guests as they sauntered through the entrance.

My days working at The Pub are a bit of a blur, but a few synapses have fired up and I bring you these Reflections armed with hindsight & thought.

I was the only foreigner working at this disco pub. My duties consisted of dancing, drinking, occasionally mixing drinks behind the bar, and door person.

For most of the time, I was kept quite busy drinking with the patrons.

A diminutive but significant parley happened with a particular patron one evening, that after a considerable amount of consideration, I’ve realized greatly influenced the way I look at words in my Mother Tongue – particularly how the word friend is used.

That evening, after a few drinks with a group of business men, the loudest of them (with limited English skills) – surrounded by satellite sycophants – put his arm around my neck in passive aggressive fashion and introduced me to newcomers at our table.

My new friend!” he exclaimed.

While I sat there (my neck fixed in the crux of his forearm and bicep, suffering the tugs & jerks in rhythm to his repeated use of new friend) it dawned on me that the meaning of the word friend had lost its significance.

Growing up, I believed a friend meant extended Family. A friend was family without the blood ties… someone you could depend on any hour of the day – or night. Someone who got your back. Someone quick with advice or at least a little bit of sympathy or better yet empathy.

I asked my new acquaintance to lend me $1000 dollars.

He stopped jerking my neck and released me.

Said he, “1000 dollah? Why?”

Said I, “We are friends. Friends help each other in need. I also need a ride home when I get off work at 4AM. Can you wait for me?”

Said he, “But I leave soon. My wife want me home by 3!”

Said I, “Could you call your wife and tell her you are helping out a friend?”

Said he, “But she do not know who are you!”

Said I, “I am your friend! I need your help. Friends help friends.”

Said he, “But first time just meeting you!”

Said I, “Ahhh, so we are not friends then?”

Said he, “More whiskey!”

The terms Friend & Acquaintance are as confusing as the words Love & Infatuation. Interestingly, as I will explain in a moment, the words love and friend are related.

But I am obliged to digress a moment and offer a cursory meaning of Love.


Love At First Sight (LAFS)

We hear of people having LAFS all the time.

In one’s Lifetime, is it possible to have a few LAFSs?

My Answer is a simple but resounding NO.

Without delving too deeply into the semantics of love… no one loves anyone at first sight. It may feel that way, but often words are not a good medium to describe feelings… are they?

Indeed, when Paths cross and one encounters someone new, one may initially like what they perceive. After all, almost everyone exhibits their most favorable side – especially when a First Impression is involved.

Presented is the new acquaintance’s utmost politeness, wittiness, and even tastes in clothing – perhaps flouting their plume not unlike a peacock. We are attracted to the pretty wrapping on the gift-box. A good First Impression, after all, is of the essence in a first meeting, isn’t it?

When such charms are flaunted, it is no wonder we like what we first observe, but it is hardly love.

When Mammalian Urges & Impulses are ablaze, however, and those three words (those three words!) are uttered (often in the heat of passion) what is being experienced is not love, but infatuation.

Infatuation may fade as Love is nurtured, just as fat withers as a regularly used muscle develops.

When homo-sapiens meet for the first time and ‘make love’ how is there real love involved? Aren’t they just have a mammalian f*ck? Merely Copulating? Having a Mating Moment? How then is a joyous one night stand defined?

We don’t fall in love in those early moments, we fall in like. We are infatuated…or maybe just horny.

But we humans need words to convey our feelings. We search for words in our heads and often blurt out what we think we feel in that moment – often without considering how what we say is perceived by the listener.

When engaged in wonderful conversation, a first outing, sexual congress or chance meeting, who hasn’t felt Passion Fascination, Obsession, Fixation, Ardor, Excitement, Delight, Enchantment, Pleasure, Amusement, Delight (did I say delight already?), Enjoyment, Gratification… and so on?

With that in mind, I don’t believe in friends at first sight either.

 Which brings me to the use of:



Etymologically, a friend is literally a lover. The relationship between Latin amīcus “friend” and amō “I love” is unmistakable, as is the correlation between Greek philos “friend” and phileō  “I love.”

In English though, we have to go back about a thousand years before we see the verb related to friend.

As most of us know English has some of its roots in the Germanic.

The word frēond, is the Old English word for ‘friend’ and was simply the present participle of the verb frēon – to love.

The Germanic root of the verb was ‘fri-’ which meant ‘to love, or be affectionate to’.

We can still see the remnants of this verb one day of the seven day week- Friday or ‘day of Frigg’ is devoted to the Germanic goddess of love – Frigg.

Friendship is one mind in two bodies.  ~Mencius

Why is the term friend becoming a nonspecific word used simply for someone another may be acquainted with? What has caused the decline of the original meaning?

 One of the culprits is indeed any one of these social networking sites on the internet. I propose that these sites – though they have their advantages – have turned the word friend into a generic expression that is becoming ever more ambiguous.

The word friend is now tossed and bumped around the social networking lexicon and used without much thought about where the word comes from and how for a millennia has enjoyed quite a meaningful status… until now.



I read a comment on a more popular networking site that asked, “who de-friended me?”

I’ve heard statements like, “I’m going to unfriend him because he doesn’t like my posts..”

I would have LOLed if it wasn’t so painfully pitiful.

I’ve also heard it said that ‘so & so is a bad friend!’

Bad Friend?  What is that?

Forgive the digression while I get Oxy-Moronic:

 How can anyone have a bad friend? .
A bad friend – is this a serious joke?  Or is this a real fantasy some people have? When I hear this, my brain bubbles with silent screams so deafening, I can’t hear myself think. It’s a sweet kind of sorrow having a bad friend – like having a friendly enemy or a Holy War! The concept is just simply complicated in its simplistic complexity.  Having a friend who is bad is like having a war that is civil… that’s Military Intelligence for you. The Simply Confused users of the term bad friend should be shot with a Peace Keeper Missile while eating Vegetarian Meatloaf. For the term belongs in a TRAGIC COMEDY!


Ahem… Moving right along…

And what about these websites that post how many friends you have? Has it become merely a popularity contest? Or a place to find like-minded game players?

These social/connecting sites have a variety of functions. Some use it to meet new people; others play the ridiculous time wasting games & quizzes; for others it is a simple networking or PR tool… but how many real friends do you have on these social networking sites?

 Something I find especially entertaining – and significant – is when an actual long time friend or a family member adds me to their friends list.

The website posts that we “…are now friends” on my Cyber-space corner for all to see.

What was our relationship before that then?

Can it be stated – tongue in cheek – that no one is a friend until the Corporate Entity ( AKA they) says so?

 On the flip side, if someone whom I find interesting and knows some of the same people I do, adds me to their friend list, we are now friends though we have never met in person – and perhaps never will.

What is our real relationship then?

Are the masses self-esteem so low that they look to a social site to give them that warm fuzzy feeling a true encounter with a real friend may have given them – had the opportunity presented itself?

Friends, friends, friends.

Who needs them then with all the politics involved?

Perhaps it is because of the murky meaning and the looseness of the usage that many of us do not see eye to eye with what a friend actually is.

Thus the confusion.

The Buddhist Monks may be right: shave your head, give up family & friends and go meditate in a cave… Unless… unless we take back this word and give it its meaning back.

What is a friend?  A single soul dwelling in two bodies.  ~Aristotle


What the hell is a New Friend then??

So if it is agreed that we should take the word friend and give it its original meaning back – what then exactly is a new friend?

When does a friend become a friend?

When do we make the cross over from acquaintance to friend?

Cultivating relationships takes time. Trust must be built. If one is first an acquaintance, when does one become a new friend?  Perhaps I should have put the word New Friend in the Oxymoron section of this essay, eh?

Food for Thought!


                                  Friendship in B.C.E. Rome

Cicero (January 3, 106 BCE – December 7, 43 BCE) had his own beliefs on friendship.

Cicero was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators & prose stylists. He is now appreciated primarily for his humanism and philosophical & political writings.

Cicero believed that in order to share true friendship, one must have complete honesty & trust. Friends do things for each other without hope of remuneration. If one friend is about to make a mistake, the other should explain what is evil about the action, and help to do what is right.



The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
Philip K. Dick

 Has the English usage of the word friend gone the Path of NewSpeak in Orwell’s 1984?

For those of you unfamiliar with Orwell’s Newspeak, instead of adding words to the lexicon, words were taken away or meant to mean several things but taking away from the original meaning. The objective of Newspeak was to remove all shades of meaning from language. In Newspeak they took pride in the Destruction & Elimination of Words. Synonyms & antonyms were at the outset expunged. Adjectives were also some of the first to be eliminated.

Bad becomes ungood.  Something really bad becomes double plus-ungood.

Thus in Newspeak nothing could be bad.

 The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can’t be thought then spoken; subsequently, it can’t be considered.

How can we communicate the need for Freedom or organize a Revolution if we don’t have the words for either?

“The limits of my language mean the limits to my world.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein


If we cannot think it – at the very least in our individual Reality Boxes in which we all individually reside –then it cannot be.

 This seems to be what is happening to the English language.

Inaccuracies abound because often our random thoughts are inattentive, careless and inconsiderate (Public Education may be the culprit for that) thus the lackadaisical route English has taken makes it easier for foolish thoughts to flourish.

One hopes that this careless process is reversible.

 A word is just a sound with no meaning until it is given a meaning through experience, association and a general agreement throughout the general population.

There’s lots of gray area there, and within that gray area, we are mired in semantic confusion.

Perhaps we should keep Newspeak in mind when talking about the meaning of the word friend.



 The language of friendship is not words but meanings.
~Henry David Thoreau


Webster’s describes Friend as: a person whom one knows well and is fond of.

One can hardly describe a perchance brief interaction resulting in the beginning stages of a relationship – a real friend. Especially if one digs deeper than the dictionary.

The Meaning of Friend, Its Associates & Some New Acquaintances

I’ve listed the original meanings of words discussed in this essay. I have also constructed a few acronyms that may be useful in describing what relationships are and with hope that by using these acronyms we may keep the original meaning of our ancient, beloved words.

I propose we make good use of the these words in regards to relationships. I also propose that some of these social networking sites change their use of the word friend to one of the acronyms I have created.

But first –  the real meanings of Friend & Acquaintance:

Friend: A relationship with another person that may be best described as family without the blood-ties. An extended family member (which being an expat I know all too well).

Acquaintance: A relationship with someone that you may or may not eventually become friends with. You may know this person for years and are indeed acquainted with them, but still – hardly a friend.


And then the Other Terms:

Buddy:Someone you are affable with. A very good acquaintance. Someone you might participate in activities with. Examples: Golf Buddy. Fuck buddy.

Pal: 1680s, from Romany (English Gypsy) pal “brother, comrade,”

Mate: “companion, associate, fellow, comrade,” late 14c., from M.L.G. mate, gemate “one eating at the same table, messmate,”

 Frenemy: …Seriously?

Proposed Acronyms for The Internet:

 NetCon: Network Connection.  Relationships that have been formed on an internet networking site – this can be in the form of PR or your social site popularity contest; a relationship with another individual based on similar business interests that may not require the energy, time and devotion one would give for a friend.

InterBud: Internet Buddy. A relationship formed on the internet. You may meet sometimes, but most interaction is done via internet.

PIK: People I Know. This all inclusive acronym can be used for anything from Family Members to someone you met at a bar last night… I think I like this one best!

Should there be clear distinct definitions on how we define relationships in general? Family, Extended Family, Friends, Acquaintances? Buds? Pals?

What guidelines should we follow so that we know that we are all on the same sheet of music?




What gives value to a friendship is often the result of the friend – on a consistent basis – demonstrating the desire to do what they feel is best for the other. A friend, like a member of a Loving Family, shows sympathy, has empathy, is honest & truthful, even in situations where it may be difficult to be so. A friend then lovingly points out perceived faults with a willingness to discuss them so that they both may have the learning benefit from one’s folly; a true friend is not spiteful, and seeks mutual understanding.

 My hope is that one be careful how we use Words. Think about their meaning. Think about how others may perceive what you are saying. Though we all share a common accepted reality, still we are all wired slightly different and individually perceive reality slightly different than those around us.

What I might be feeling in my heart and understanding in my mind when I share a first kiss and express what I am feeling with someone is going to be slightly different than that of whom I am sharing that kiss.

 Life is so much better when there is Good Communication. Let’s bring the real meanings back to the words Friend & Love and save the World!

Peace and Love

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