As an avid reader and editor, I’m always trying to expand my vocabulary for multiple reasons. One, I just love words and discovering where they originate. Two, the more I know, the more helpful I am as an editor. Three, I love using fifty cent words people haven’t heard before that give me an excuse to talk about words some more!
With these “Word of the Week” blogs I hope to continue teaching myself and hopefully entertain (maybe teach?) some of you along the way.
- Foolishly impractical, especially in the pursuit of ideals
- Marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action
If any of you have heard of the character Don Quixote then you know where this word originated. After Don Quixote was publishing during the late 17th century, people began using quixotic as a way to describe foolishly idealistic people they knew based on the foolishly idealistic Don Quixote himself.
Over time, the word lost popularity as the book lost popularity and today few people have a chance to use it (unless you happen to be in a Literature course reading Don Quixote).
Why I like it
First, it sounds fun to say. When I first read this word, I laughed at just how ridiculous it was to say out loud. Then of course I had to figure out what it meant. And it made perfect sense to me that a word that sounds foolish to say meant to be foolish in one’s actions.
I love that it’s a word that originated from a novel. Though I believe most novelists set out with the hope they’ll write a book with a lasting impression or one that reaches many people, I doubt many set out hoping to add a new word to the dictionary. The fact that this author was able to make a permanent change to the English language is both fascinating and cool.
Also, this is definitely one of those words that’ll turn heads if used in public (trust me, I’ve used it multiple times for this reason alone) so it always gives me an excuse to lay some literature and word knowledge on the poor souls I happen to be with.
Reminds me of…
Sadly, I haven’t read Don Quixote (I know, I’m a slacker), so I can’t say it reminds me of that book in any detailed way besides just the title, but it does make me think of a few other examples. I mean, can’t most everyone think of people they see every day that have a few foolish ideals?
Think of every Disney movie you’ve ever watched. Though the movies take on a much happier tone than the original written works, quite a few of those characters are still quixotic. The Prince from Cinderella rides around the entire kingdom with a shoe believing it will find his true love (who he only spent a night with, but that’s beside the point)—sounds pretty extravagantly chivalrous to me.
But it’s not just written works or movies that hold quixotic characters or ideals, music holds plenty of its own. Take “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles for example. It is foolish to believe that all the world needs is love to fix all its problems, or that a person can be happy solely living off love. It’d be wonderful if that were case, don’t get me wrong, but realistically it takes a combination of many things to live in this world, like compromise, understanding, and a way of earning the means to get the basic necessities to live, whatever that may be to each individual. Basically, thinking you could go into the world proclaiming “All you need is love!” and expecting a giant sing-along is pretty foolish, thought that would be an epic sing-along. (Disclaimer: I very much enjoy The Beatles and this in no way is meant to be a negative critique of their work. It is a great song!)
So, now you’ve heard my opinion, what’s yours? Like the word? Hate it? Plan to use it in the near future? I’d love to hear about it!