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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Two Faces to ‘Two-Faced’

White line art drawing of two faces. Being two-faced often has negative connotations, but it’s time to rethink how we define the phrase. (lux/Pinterest)

The felt-tip pens unceremoniously dumped on your desk rattle as your phone lights up with a text. Fingers stumbling over the keyboard you know so well, you quickly type a response: “Hey, whoa. You’re not mean enough for anybody to call you two-faced.”

If you’ve ever heard the word “two-faced,” you’ll know that it has several bleak definitions. The first definition that pops up on Google is by Oxford Languages, equating the term with being “​​insincere and deceitful.” In this definition, the word “two-faced” has an undeniably negative connotation. But why? 

“Sincere” is defined by Oxford Languages as “proceeding from genuine feelings,” and nobody can pretend to be utterly genuine. In many situations, being sincere can lead to difficult outcomes, as different relationships call for different interactions. That’s OK.

For example, speaking with a teacher about an assignment that you need to catch up on doesn’t call for a cruel but sincere remark about how much you hate their class. When you see someone wearing a shirt that you find particularly ugly as you walk down the street, that doesn’t mean you should tell them. When a well-meaning stranger asks you how you’re doing, you probably won’t explain all the intricacies of why you are, in fact, doing horribly. 

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These situations are accepted socially, but are some of many which require a certain insincerity and two-faced nature. Does that make us all two-faced?

Another definition, shared by a user on Urban Dictionary, is “when a person acts a certain way in one place and acts differently in another.” Nearly everyone acts differently around their parents, siblings, friends and teachers. If they didn’t, it would be concerning; varying degrees of professionalism are called for in contrasting interactions.

Even around friends and peers, many find themselves making different jokes, adjusting their mannerisms and code-switching, or changing their style of speech. 

Code-switching has become a critical tool used by many different cultural and racial groups to avoid the negative stereotypes they often face. Being two-faced, on the other hand, is code-switching on an emotional level, and it’s an effective way of making both parties feel comfortable and at ease.

Of course, the implications of stealing, cheating, lying in excess and the hypocrisy often associated with being two-faced should not be encouraged. Making “fake” personas ultimately causes confusion to the point where it’s hard to remember who someone really is.

Instead, people should lean into different aspects of themselves in order to put others and themselves at ease. This is the definition of two-faced that should be accepted universally.

Your finger hovers above the send button before tapping the delete button quickly. You type a new message and press the blue arrow without hesitation. “Just take it as a compliment! Everybody’s two-faced :).” 

By Tindra Jemsby

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Tindra Jemsby
Tindra Jemsby, 9/10 Journalism Class Editor

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