Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Optimism

Optimism is something to celebrate.
An optimist will remember the promise of spring on a blustery, winter day, believe in what's possible rather than dwell on the impossible, and live with more hope than worry. This glass-half-full mindset is shorthand for optimism.     


The noun, optimism, is primarily defined as a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. 

The word expect is key in looking at the definition. Optimists do not hope for or wish for, they expect. A true optimist will live without fear or doubt slowing them down. 

Further definitions of optimism are closer to its Latin and French Eighteenth Century roots. Optimism is a doctrine/teaching of a belief system:  

  • that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world;
  • that goodness pervades reality; or
  • that the existing world is the best of all possible worlds.


In this way, optimism is faith. It is doctrine without contradiction, without hocus pocus, and without moral codes of conduct. Optimism also is a word without reference to a deity. It is simple, derived from Latin optimus best, superlative of bonus good. 

Optimism declares the world is good, a world where there is an ultimate triumph of good over evil. 

Optimists are not just looking to the bright side. Optimists are not just peering through rose-colored glasses. Optimists are more; they are believers. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Similarities






Differences are easy to see. Any child can circle the six things different on the second adjacent picture. Yet, the same game player overlooks all that is the same. 

I'm not suggesting a place where we are cloaked in sameness. Accept and promote diversity, but rather than focusing on what is different, look for the similarities. 

The plural noun, similarities, captures the likeness and resemblance that exist, the traits and aspects that are reflected from one to another. 

In a place rooted in common ground, it is easy to focus on similarities rather than that which divides. 

William Shakespeare's eternal truism regarding this was written more than four hundred years ago in "The Merchant of Venice." 

"If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" (Act III, scene I)


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Poppycock

"Poppycock" can pack a punch. Once the shock of the hard sound passes, the perfectly acceptable word is amusing. The common noun simply means nonsense or, to put it another way, bosh. The Brits might say rubbish or, more daringly, balls. 
In the mid 1800s, Americans coined "poppycock" likely from the Dutch pappekak. As an amateur entomologist, I believe it translates from the Dutch pappe (soft food) and Dutch kak (derived from Latin for dung) to mean soft poop or, more bluntly, bullshit.  

Despite this comical, somewhat vulgar examination, "poppycock," passes as an innocent, playful word. It is as clean and refreshing as the tulip fields of the Netherlands.  



Senior Editor Nicki Porter used the word "poppycock" in the opening column of the August 2017 issue of The Writer. In the next sentence, she confessed how ridiculous the word looked on the page, but maintained no other word would have sufficed to make her point. 
 
I rarely come across the word "poppycock" in reading or in conversation. I was mildly delighted to see it in print. Porter's column defended memoir as a relevant genre despite rampant attacks of the art form.  She called "poppycock" on the critics.  

I agree with Porter, sometimes, "poppycock" is the best word to call out crap. "Poppycock" has just the right air of condescension. In other times, a quiet hogwash, a firm bunk, or, an equally ridiculous, balderdash might do.