Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 538

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Hinglish: A Case of Reverse Colonization?
The World

Slang is Good for You

From: Alex Pimentel (the4pimentels comcast.net)
Subject: Pollyanna
Def: A naively cheerful and optimistic person.

The discussion of positive thinking reminds me of a Bizarro comic by artist Dan Piarro showing this variation on the standard "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." I thought that was very clever and very funny, and I'm all about clever and funny!

Alex Pimentel, Richmond, California

From: Ef Deal (GwynnaL aol.com)
Subject: Pollyanna

A pollyanna is also a gift-giving practice: everyone brings a gift to a party, and then everyone chooses a gift from the pool. I believe it's also practiced as a secret Santa kind of thing where you draw names from a pool of names, and buy just that person a gift anonymously.

Ef Deal, Haddonfield, New Jersey

From: Jean T. Tucker (jet jeanttuckercpa.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pollyanna

After reading Pollyanna again, as an adult, I find Pollyanna to be not naive, but filled with hope and faith in the human condition. I now object to anyone who calls her naive. Innocence, true innocence, is more powerful than any tragic thought. And the glad game is so NOT a game, but a practice of continuous gratitude.

Jean T. Tucker, Canterbury, Connecticut

Email of the Week brought to you by: Oneupmanship -- "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a real loser."

From: Perri Klass (perri.klass nyu.edu)
Subject: Pollyanna

Just wanted to comment that Pollyanna Whittier, though certainly on the side of optimism, was no fool, and did not by any means go around calling horrid things wonderful, as your quotation would suggest. She assumes that people will behave well, and sometimes they surprise themselves by living up to her expectations, and she searches for realistic ways to smile at disappointments or turn them into opportunities. Here's an article, which discusses the extraordinary impact of Eleanor H. Porter's book when it originally appeared in 1913.

Perri Klass, New York, New York

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: Pollyanna

It looks like being a Pollyanna may have some scientific validity according to a study in the August 2012 issue of Psychological Science. Participants in three different groups were required to perform stressful tasks (such as plunging their hands into icy water) while smiling, holding chopsticks to force a smile, and not smiling. Heart rates, etc. were taken and participants experienced greater stress when they did not smile and the least stress when their smile was genuine. So perhaps the old adage to "grin and bear it", or better still, the state of being "naively cheerful and optimistic" benefits not only mood but also health.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois

From: Michael Acquaviva (michaelacq gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pollyanna

This week's theme reminds me of the story of a powerful king who asked his wise men to create a ring that helped him get through desperate times and granted him restraint through prosperous times. On the ring, they wrote: "This too shall pass." How's that for perspective?

Michael Acquaviva, State College, Pennsylvania

From: Michael Kohl (mmkohl gmail.com)
Subject: Tempering optimism with realism

Today's intro (which mentions our need for both pick-me-ups and ground-me-when-it's-going-wells) reminds me of something I learned about in high school Latin. Upon his return to the capital after a successful foreign campaign, a Roman army commander ('imperator') might be treated to a Triumph, an elaborate procession through the streets of Rome lauding his spoils and achievements.

During the celebration, the imperator would be accompanied on his chariot by a slave whose job was to repeatedly whisper in his master's ear. While there is some argument among scholars as to the exact words the slaves uttered, a close paraphrase is "Remember you are mortal." This is also where we get the famous Latin phrase memento mori.

Michael Kohl, Los Angeles, California

From: Trudy Stevenson (j.stevenson computer.org)
Subject: jeremiah
Def: A person who complains continually, has a gloomy attitude, or one who warns about a disastrous future.

In the Netherlands, we also have a verb derived from jeremiah: jeremiëren, meaning 'whine, complain, lament'.

Trudy Stevenson, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

From: David Lachmann (david.lachmann mail.house.gov)
Subject: Pangloss

Dr Pangloss was Voltaire's parody of the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who espoused the views articulated (in a satirical form) by Pangloss. The notion that this is the best of all possible worlds was Leibniz's effort to solve the age-old problem of evil, i.e. if G-d is good, omniscient, and omnipotent, why is there evil?

In his "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, or: An Examination of that Axiom 'All Is Well'" (1755), Voltaire writes

Oh, miserable mortals! Oh wretched earth!
Oh, dreadful assembly of all mankind!
Eternal sermon of useless sufferings!
Deluded philosophers who cry, "All is well,"
more ...

David Lachmann, Silver Spring, Maryland

From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
Subject: Pangloss
Def: noun: One who is optimistic regardless of the circumstances; adjective: Blindly or unreasonably optimistic.

Pangloss brings to mind this other French expression used ironically that stems from a popular song (video) by Ray Ventura:
"Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise."
Translation: Everything is all right, Madame la Marquise.

Madame la Marquise calls home for news during her short absence. James, her devoted butler, can't bring himself to bluntly tell her that the family is ruined, Monsieur le Marquis has committed suicide causing the castle to burn to the ground, Madame's favorite mare perishing in the flames. So instead, he keeps saying: "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise", everything's perfect, adding "mais cependant, il faut que l'on vous dise..." "though you need to know ...". That's how we learn about the tragedy. However, in the end, the refrain always comes back: "tout va très bien."

Pangloss would probably comment on the current European situation with a "tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes" and one could only concur: "tout va très, bien Madame la Marquise".

Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany

From: Dannie Walker (huskstang mindspring.com)
Subject: Pangloss

I think that it is rather safe to say that Eric Idle plays perhaps the ultimate Pangloss in the final scene from the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian.

Dannie Walker, Charleston, West Virginia

Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. -Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith