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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Word Meanings - Pathetic

Pathetic. In modern literature and blogging and just Real Life, in the U.S. of A, we take this word to mean the fourth definition listed on that link: "miserably or contemptibly inadequate: In return for our investment we get a pathetic three percent interest." But really? The original connotative meaning of the word is more like the first three definitions listed there:
  1. causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc.;pitiful; pitiable: a pathetic letter; a pathetic sight.
  2. affecting or moving the feelings.
  3. pertaining to or caused by the feelings.
When I use the word, I'm generally referring to the kids - as in this pathetic picture of Abby the night we discovered her nut allergy (that big toe sticking out just kills me). It means that which evokes pity, not contemptibly inadequate. But I find myself having to be very careful when I use the word, because most people (at least here in the USA) use it in that fourth sense.

So today, when Lizzy (not quite four years old) used the word in a sentence ("that's sad and pathetic, mama"), I thought where on earth did she learn the first three definitions? And then I realized she learned it from me. I'm ridiculously proud of this, because sometimes my sense of humor tends toward the sarcastic, which lends itself to that fourth definition.

And isn't that pathetic?