On the ferry to the island to hit the beach for one last sand and spash, Aina and I looked across the water at the island owned by one of the city’s yacht clubs: a lush green retreat, just across the harbour from the city, nestled in with the busy popular parkland but not connected to it – not even a bridge. We talked about how nice it could be to be able to go right from downtown to a nice little secluded and exclusive retreat like that.
Secluded and exclusive? “Seclusive,” Aina said.
Which sounds like a made-up word blending secluded and exclusive. But actually it’s a real word. If exclusive is ‘tending to exclude’, seclusive is ‘tending to seclude’ – seclude oneself, that is. If you are seclusive, you are disposed to close yourself off.
That’s from Latin se ‘apart’, as seen in separate, segregate, secede, and claudere ‘shut’ – also seen in exclude, include, preclude.
So the ex pushes out – just like your tongue saying it: lifting up and touching at the back and then pressing forward. A yacht club can certainly seem exclusive – though the one we were looking at across the water came into being from being excluded: the grand old yacht club excluded members of certain ethnic and religious groups, so this one was founded to be more inclusive. But it’s still exclusive in that you have to be able to afford a membership, and you can’t go there unless you’re a member or guest.
The se, on the other hand, starts with the tongue on the tip and then releases – not exactly pulling in and closing off, but not pushing out either. But seclusive is an easier word to say than exclusive; it’s less plosive, and can be whispered quietly in the ear without causing a wince. It can even be whispered while inhaling.
And to be seclusive is rather less offensive than to be exclusive. If you are exclusive, you are pointedly pushing away others. People value exclusive things precisely because they leave other people out: it’s about feeling good because other people feel bad. But if you’re seclusive, you’re simply drawing yourself away. You’re not with an exclusive in-group above and beyond others; you’re in an out-group – perhaps an out-group of one. You’re not pushing everyone else away; you’re pulling yourself away. Off to your mountaintop or cloister or island.
Ah, an island. Your own little island, perhaps. Quiet, lush, away from the hustle and bustle, a comfortable chair to sit in, surrounded by bookshelves…
Seclusive people are much more my kind of people, I think. But they can be so hard to find.