words like thither, mischance, felicity

On my way to work this morning, in my car without a functional radio, I was thinking about interesting words in the English language – specifically “pride” and its cousin “proud.” To quote Ron Stoppable, it’s a cornucopia of disturbing concepts.

Pride has two major meanings that I’m concerned about … one has characteristics that we would call “good” and the other has characteristics that we would call “bad.” The thing that is both maddening and cool at the same time is the fact that these two polar meanings actually are the same, not opposite. What separates them is a matter of degree and focus.

It is good to be proud of an accomplishment made by you or someone else. It is good to have enough pride in yourself to shower every day. Words like ‘respect’ come to mind when thinking about the “good” kind of pride – towards yourself and others.

It is bad to let your family starve because your pride won’t let you accept help. It is bad to let pride keep you from helping others. If you examine these closely, you can see that it is still a matter of respect, but it becomes a problem because the respect is too strong and focused in the wrong place.

I’m curious about whether these two kinds of pride are assigned to different words in other languages … so those of you that have experience with a living language other than English, please let me know. If you’ve studied a dead language sometime in the last year or so, that would qualify too.

UPDATE 2009-01-13: A good single-word restatement of the bad sort of pride was pointed out to me: arrogance.

One response to “words like thither, mischance, felicity”

  1. Hi,
    My first language is Portuguese, and in Portuguese we also use the same word for the 2 meanings. I think you are right and it would be much better if we had 2 distinguished words for pride.

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