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Oct 15, 2012
This week's theme
Optimists and pessimists from fiction who became words

This week's words
pollyanna
jeremiah
micawber
cassandra
pangloss

A sculpture of Pollyanna in Littleton, New Hampshire
A sculpture of Pollyanna in Littleton, New Hampshire, the hometown of Eleanor Porter
Photo: Gre

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The glass is half empty, the glass is half full. The economy is down, prices are lower. Often there are two ways to look at the world. We need both -- to encourage and to caution; to keep us grounded when things are going well and to prop us up when they aren't.

The words optimism and pessimism are derived from the superlative forms of Latin bonus (good) and malus (bad). This week we'll see five words that are coined after optimists and pessimists in fiction. To keep things on the positive side, we have chosen three optimists for two pessimists.

Pollyanna

PRONUNCIATION:
(pol-ee-AN-uh)

MEANING:
noun: A naively cheerful and optimistic person.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Pollyanna Whittier, heroine of novels by Eleanor Porter (1868-1920). Pollyanna is an indefatigable optimist and teaches everyone to play the "glad game": find something to be glad about, no matter what tragedy befalls. Earliest documented use: 1917.

USAGE:
"So the doctrine of positive thinking does not require you to close your eyes and ears to the world. It does not require you to become a Pollyanna, calling everything wonderful, no matter how horrid it is."
A Thought About Negative Thinking; Deccan Chronicle (India); Sep 16, 2012.

See more usage examples of pollyanna in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. -Mildred Witte Stouven

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