Dilettante. I was called a dilettante for the first time (which happens to be the first time I ever heard the word) when I was a freshman in college.
I hadn’t known what this word meant, so I had looked it up and found something very similar to this Merriam-Webster definition:
1 : an admirer or lover of the arts
2 : a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge : DABBLER
“An admirer or lover of the arts” — how wonderful! But he had said it in a sort of mocking way, so I had asked what was so wrong with being someone who loved the arts. Apparently, he had meant it in the latter way, which happens to be the more common use of the word (as indicated by other dictionaries and people who are well-versed in Big Wordstm).
This riled me up back then and still riles me up now. There is definitely something to be said for someone who gains a deep and penetrating knowledge of a field. They move areas of research forward; they are the ones who break new ground and move us ever forward in the tide of progress. They are the pioneers and we’d be nowhere without them.
But that’s not to say there is something wrong with people who can see the wonder and joy of a variety of things and like to poke and taste at them. I look around the world and see so many items of interest, topics to pull apart, food to eat, media to consume, things to absorb. I love Toni Morrison but I also love Julia Quinn. I love La vita Ã¨ bella but I also love Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. I drool at high–tech gadgets but I also love that I can make something like a scarf out of something as low-tech as some yarn and two skinny sticks. I loved intro chem and organic chemistry so much that I used to beg people to let me tutor them but I still can’t help falling asleep at every corporate informational session they have. Oh wait… one of these is not like the other. It doesn’t fit the list paradigm! Arg! One more try… I loved chem but I also love to assemble IKEA furniture, except anything involving hammering. I suck at that.
I love things that have to do with etymology or current word usage or standard grammar but I also gleefully use “OMGWTF!” and have actually said the non-word “lawls” (phonetic pronunciation of LOLs) in real life. [edit: This was not a good example of what I meant to illustrate. Somehow, this morphed into a highbrow/lowbrow thing, instead of a deep knowledge versus shallow enjoyment. Damn.] Instead of, you know, actually laughing out loud. I know. I’m ashamed too. And this post will undoubtedly be full of mistakes which will force me to make incremental changes over the next few weeks, thereby embarrassing me in my assertion that I love grammar.
But whatever it is that I’m interested in, even if it is for just a short period of time, it really, really interests me and gets me fired up. I try to grok the material, at least on the level of what makes it an enjoyable thing. I throw myself into it. I love it and revel in it.
To sum up, being a dabbler is no crime. Take joy in whatever you want, whether it’s something that is generally considered frivolous or something that is generally revered, whether you only get into it for a week or a lifetime. There is so much awesomeness out in the world and only so much time.
In other words, do the dew. *ducks and runs*
Spendthrift. This is a word that has been haunting me for years. It is reasonable to say that it has in fact been bugging me for decades. Since the first time I ran across it, it’s driven me crazy. Trying to understand it as a compound word seems to make it clear that it’s a word that has to do with being frugal. Reading it in context makes it clear that it’s one of those odd words that means the opposite of what it looks like… Until you read something else and it sounds like what you originally thought it meant.
I’ve always been 85% convinced that it means someone who spends money like it was made of water, contrary to the seeming breakdown of the words. I vaguely remember even looking it up sometime during my high school years. The problem is that I remember the “A-ha!” feeling I had when I looked it up, but forgot which way the resolution went. Well, recently, a podcast from A Way with Words cleared it up for me. Dictionary.com defines the word to mean the following:
1. a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal.
2. wastefully extravagant; prodigal.
[Origin: 1595â€“1605; spend + thrift]
[Origin: 1200â€“50; ME < ON: well being, prosperity; cf. thrive]
And the origin of that says the following:
[Origin: 1150â€“1200; ME thriven < ON thrÄ«fast to thrive, reflexive of thrÄ«fa to grasp]
So the contemporary meaning of thrift most likely comes from the part of the definition having to do with “grasping” or holding onto something, but the older meaning had more to do with the contemporary meaning of thrive. So a “spendthrift” is someone who spends with vigor!
I love it!