Thursday, February 18, 2010


Adjective - excessively optimistic (or, in my own interpretation, annoyingly optimistic)

I recently signed up for the word-of-the-day email from Merriam-Webster. I love it! I delete the emails with the words with which I am familiar, and keep the others in a folder on my email account to remind me not only of what they are and their definitions, but also to try to use them. I started talking about these in my classes, and I have students who beg to write "the word of the day on the board." By all means! Nothing better than increasing the lexicon of our youth so we move away from, like, the way we, like, talk!

Panglossian is one I had never heard of before.

Excessively optimistic. At what point is someone optimistic to excess? Or is that a subjective level - more personal - the level at which we think to ourselves "If this person cries in joy at one more snowflake falling down, I'm going to scratch his/her eyes out!"

What's sad is that we have a particular term for someone who chooses to see the good in all situations, and get to use it so seldom. What's sad is that we, as a society, find those who choose to see the good as fingernails on a chalkboard, get out of my face annoying.

Let's be honest with ourselves. We don't have an actual term for the antonym. There are the episodes of Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live playing the role of Debbie Downer (bwah, bwah...), but no actual vocabulary term for these people. And, we all know people like this, don't we? Don't we all have someone who we can only handle in small doses because they are, in fact, annoyingly pessimistic? Do you ever worry that you are sometimes coming across this way? I do.

What it boils down to is this. Right now, things really suck in the world. The economy is in the toilet. People are homeless, starving. Haitians are suffering tremendously. And yet, I have a roof. I have a job that I love, even if I could do without certain aspects of it. I have a loving, caring family. Who am I to force my own problems, imagined or otherwise, on other people? Why am I so important that I have to find it necessary to bring other people down?

I'm not.

So, here is my promise, my pledge, my goal. I swear I will try to be more panglossian. I will strive to answer the ubiquitous "Good morning! How are you!" that we hear going down the hall with a cheerful (though sometimes contrived) "Excellent! And how are you?" No one really needs to know when I am struggling to think straight after only 4 hours of sleep, or when I am drowning under the weight of grading. I will do my best to bring an effulgent light to others (and yes, I have now used effulgent 2x - it was another word I'd never heard of before...aren't you proud of me for managing to use it consistently in my monologues??)

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