Lost Words: Reviving Character Traits from the Past

What are the first words you use when describing someone you admire? Maybe you’d say ambitious, funny, nice, successful, and honest.

But what about honorability?* And when is the last time you yearned for something? Do you really care if your best friend is a good citizen or not?

We’ve lost words from popular usage, and the loss goes deeper than just the words alone. The character traits we value have changed with time, along with other things that are important to us, and this hasn’t been a conscious, thoughtful change.

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Some changes in society are obviously positive over time: In days of yore when people embraced honorability, they also often embraced racism. Still, it seems as though we’ve lost some of the good along with the bad, and at least being aware of these lost traits seems like a positive.

We don’t necessarily look for honorability in our friends, and we certainly don’t expect it in our politicians. (Note the difference between expecting it and being pleasantly surprised when you find it). We no longer yearn for the letter in the mail from a loved one because we can simply check our email. We might appreciate those who volunteer to make our society a better place, but is it a quality we actively seek? Do we even pay attention who wins good citizenship awards in our towns?

Similarly, certain political groups have claimed patriotism as theirs alone, but love and pride for where we live, even if we disagree with those folks, seems to be a lost concept.

Last on my list is “humble.” Now that good self-esteem is all the rage, we almost feel bad for someone who isn’t ready to step up and brag about him or herself. Whatever happened to the notion of the self-effacing hero?

What words do you think should be used more?

*Interestingly, both WordPress and YouTube do not recognize “honorability” as a properly spelled word.

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