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juniper
08-10-2012, 09:49 AM
A sentence popped into my head the other day. It was something like:

"I shook his proffered hand and we agreed to call it a truce."

And then I thought - what the heck? 'Proffered hand?' What kind of silly twit says that? *

So I looked into the differences between "proffer" and "offer" and found dictionary resources to be rather ambiguous as to who might use which one and why and how and when and where and what for.

The only reference I found in this forum is a post a few years ago:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3284025&postcount=14

The only thing I can gather is that "proffer" is used in legal settings and other formal language events, but it really means the same as "offer."

Anyone have something else to proffer on this decidedly unfascinating question?

(can you tell I'm avoiding doing something I should be doing?)

* (not implying that Bartholomew is a silly twit.)

blacbird
08-10-2012, 10:00 AM
What's the point of the adjective? "I shook his hand" is completely sufficient.

caw

juniper
08-10-2012, 10:32 AM
What's the point of the adjective? "I shook his hand" is completely sufficient.

Well, thanks, but that's not what I was asking about here.

evilrooster
08-10-2012, 12:12 PM
"Proffered" sounds much more old-fashioned than "offered" to me. I wouldn't expect a twenty year old viewpoint character in low-slung jeans to mention a proffered hand, but a gentleman of seventy in a suit might do so.

It also feels a hair more tentative. One proffers something slightly more revocably, and with somewhat less implication that a rebuff will be taken personally.

But these are all shades of meaning, and my impressions may not be accurate.

JohnnyGottaKeyboard
08-10-2012, 01:18 PM
One proffers something slightly more revocably, and with somewhat less implication that a rebuff will be taken personally.
That sounds rightish to me (which I suppose means it has a certain truthiness).

I think use of the word proffer would definitely relate to the intentions (either implied or inferred) of the person doing the proffering (the former for a POV character, the latter for any other character).

The words certainly aren't universally interchangeable. You would not, for instance, say: "There were several proffers on the table," nor "The college proffers several grammar courses."

I think proffer generally means "put forth as an offer" (at least by the entymology), whereas offer means "makes available". I'm sticking with the verb forms, here; while I reckon a cogent argument might be proffered that proffer could be used as a noun.

But hey I clicked on this thread because I was curious and by no means confident of my rightishness, so bring on other opinions!

Snick
08-10-2012, 04:45 PM
I agree with johnny, and dictionary.com supports that view in the etymology:
Origin:
1250–1300; Middle English profren < Anglo-French profrer, variant of Old French poroffrir, equivalent to por- pro- (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pro-)1 + offrir to offer (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/offer)
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proffer?s=t

There isn't a whole lot of difference between "offer" and "put forth as an offer".

Jamesaritchie
08-11-2012, 12:33 AM
I sentence popped into my head the other day. It was something like:

"I shook his proffered hand and we agreed to call it a truce."

And then I thought - what the heck? 'Proffered hand?' What kind of silly twit says that? *

.)

The kind of silly twit who knows language, and who wants to use the right word for the right story and the right character?

I'd have to read the piece in context, but "offered" does not work here, and neither does "I shook his hand". "Proffered" and "truce" go together perfectly.

I think you should listen to your head. It seems to know what it's talking about.

WriteMinded
08-12-2012, 03:11 AM
Stop thinking, you silly twit. You were right and classy, too, the first time.

Yes, I can tell you are in the midst of avoidance, as am I.

blacbird
08-12-2012, 05:48 AM
Well, thanks, but that's not what I was asking about here.

The choice, in your example, seems to me to be between one superfluous adjective and another superfluous adjective. So why struggle with picking one or the other?

Both these words have their meanings and uses, and they are not synonyms. And, maybe, given the prose context within which the sentence in question exists, which we don't have, one or the other does have a use. But, standing alone, I can't see that either does.

But I admit I'm a bit of a prose minimalist.

caw

juniper
08-12-2012, 08:37 AM
And, maybe, given the prose context within which the sentence in question exists, which we don't have, one or the other does have a use. But, standing alone, I can't see that either does.


I can see how you might think it's superfluous, depending on the prior sentence or two. The thing is, this sentence, by itself, is what popped into my head and made me curious. It's not part of anything else. There is no context. The lack of which could make this confusing / misleading.

If in a previous sentence the man had held his hand out to me, and then I said I shook his proffered hand, the adjective would not be strictly necessary.

By itself, though, it takes away the need for the prior "he held out his hand" and makes it clear that he's holding out his hand.

So one or the other would suffice, I think. But just "I shook his hand" without a previous setup, would be deficient.

Bufty
08-12-2012, 02:58 PM
So it's all academic, eh?

Best solution if this situation ever cropped up while writing a first person POV tale would be to ask your POV character if he understood or would ever use the word 'proffered' himself. If he didn't and/or wouldn't - leave it out. ;)

thothguard51
08-12-2012, 07:58 PM
To me...

While proffered does mean an offer, there are strings generally attached to a proffer.

My company wants to develop land they already own in a sensitive area. We make the county or state a proffer that we will do XYZ if they approve the zoning and permits. That is a proffer...

Jamesaritchie
08-12-2012, 08:11 PM
I don't think anything here is superfluous. I tend to be a minimalist, as well, but I also believe the right word, or the rights words, matter, and that the way a sentence sounds makes all the difference.

One word plays off another, one meaning combines with a another, and two words then mean more than either standing alone. "Proffered" and "truce" are two such words.

Minimalism can be wonderful, but it's all too easy to fall into "See Spot run", see Jane jump".

Even Hemingway, thought by many to be the quintessential minimalist, came up with some sparkling prose when needed.

juniper
08-12-2012, 08:53 PM
So it's all academic, eh?

Best solution if this situation ever cropped up while writing a first person POV tale would be to ask your POV character if he understood or would ever use the word 'proffered' himself. If he didn't and/or wouldn't - leave it out. ;)

Yes, sorry, this is just an exercise in words, I guess. I mentioned in my first post that I was avoiding doing what I should be doing. (and I am again, right now.) :)

And I think you make a good point - would the POV character know the word. Especially since I set up the sentence from 1st POV. If he didn't know it, he wouldn't use it, or might use it incorrectly, so then it's back to 'proffer vs offer.' Here we go round in circles ...

Sometimes words are just interesting.

blacbird
08-12-2012, 10:12 PM
I can see how you might think it's superfluous, depending on the prior sentence or two. The thing is, this sentence, by itself, is what popped into my head and made me curious. It's not part of anything else. There is no context. The lack of which could make this confusing / misleading.

If in a previous sentence the man had held his hand out to me, and then I said I shook his proffered hand, the adjective would not be strictly necessary.

That helps clarify a bit. The more I think about it, the problem I have isn't the word choice, it's the sentence construction. The use of the verb form as adjective just feels a little clumsy to me. There's a nuance: Did you mean for a hesitation to be implied? (Which is kind of nice, and adds a little meaning to the moment.) If so, there are two actions described here, one character proffers a hand, the narrator shakes it. That works better as two short independent sentences, rather than being crammed together into a single one, and is no longer in terms of number of words:

He profferred his hand. I shook it.

There, as reader, I take the sense that there was a small moment of hesitation, of decision-making, rather than a simple reflex response.

One of the major problems I see in compositions in my English classes is that students fear the period. They often want to cram all kinds of information together in single sentences which cry out to be split into two or more smaller ones. And this doesn't just mean run-ons, which are a special category. Just sentences that are too long, too full of dependent clauses, unfocused, vague. Now, your example isn't too long or unfocused, but it does seem to me to be better split into the two short ones.

caw