During the building of this site, I spent some time searching for a word to describe the people I wanted to surround myself with, the ones I identified with the most, the people who I wanted to connect with here. Pith is not one of my strong suits, and so this was not an easy task at all.
I was about to give up on this project when, completely inadvertently, I spied a random passage in a book by Bill Bryson called The Mother Tongue, a book about the history of the English language:
In English, in short, there are words for almost anything. Some of these words deserve to be better known. Take velleity, which describes a mild desire, a wish or urge too slight to lead to action. Doesn’t that seem a useful term?
Indeed. I smirked when reading that passage, in wonder at how one word could describe most of my existence. Wanting something, but not wanting it enough to make it happen. Having an urge to take action, but not enough of an urge to actually take action. This described me perfectly! Or at least, how I used to be. Or at least, how I’m trying to not be now.
It was obvious: I was an ex-velleitier!
I went to the dictionary and looked up the proper spelling for someone who practiced velleity. To my astonishment, I couldn’t find the word. I even looked up a few different variations. I favored using the -ier suffix to denote occupation (used in words like “clothier” or “luthier”) as it rolled off the tongue better than using the -er suffix (which seems to be more common in English, as in “banker” or “tailor”), though I looked up both. Could it be that the noun that expressed this mild desire existed, but not a noun to describe someone who practiced it? And yet, Bill Bryson said, doesn’t that seem a useful term?
I’d like to think that the dictionary authors may have had a mild desire to add it to the dictionary, but too slight a desire to lead to actual inclusion. It would be much more fitting that way.
So with the word not existing otherwise, I decided to coin the word.
velleitier /vəˈlēətēr/ (n): someone who practices velleity.
For my purposes here, I’m less interested in velleitiers. I’m more interested in the ex-velleitiers, those who used to be that way, who used to want to do things but never followed through with them, but who have sworn off their self-defeating ways. I’m interested in those who aren’t willing to settle for a mild desire or wish or urge anymore. I’m interested in those who have desires strong enough to lead to action.
So many of us are velleitiers. I’ve spent much of my life being one, but I’m working to change that. And if you are too, well, you’ve come to the right place. And if it takes inventing a word to describe this more precisely, well so be it. That’s something that makes the English language pretty neat; while there are rules of usage that most people can agree upon, ultimately, English is crowdsourced. This is my suggestion for the next update.
But enough about me. Do you feel like a velleitier or an ex-velleitier?
- The uncommon color of the swan - March 16, 2020
- The Roth IRA danger zone (part 4): How to withdraw an excess contribution at Vanguard - March 9, 2020
- The Roth IRA danger zone (part 3): How I resolved an excess contribution - March 2, 2020