Every human being is, in one way or another, unique. Let us examine ten personality types (one of which might by chance be your very own) that result from the way culture, growth, family background, and environment interact with heredity.
SESSION 23 – TEN CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
His attitude to life is simple – every decision he makes is based on the answer to one question: ‘What is in it for me?’ If his selfishness hurts other people, that is too bad.
The height of conceit
‘Have you heard about all the money I’m making? Did I tell you about my latest amorous conquest?’ She is boastful to the point of being obnoxious. She has only one string to her conventional bow, namely, herself: what she has done, how good she is, how she would solve the problems of the world, etc.
Let me help you
You have discovered the secret of true happiness – concerning yourself with the welfare of others. Never mind your own interests, how’s the next fellow getting along?
Leave me alone
You minutely examine your every thought and action. Futile questions like ‘How do I look?’, and ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said that?’ are your constant nagging companions. You may be shy and quiet, and you prefer solitude or at most the company of one person to a crowd. You probably have an aptitude for creative work.
Let’s do it together
You can always become interested – sincerely, vitally interested – in other people’s problems. You’re the life of the party, because you never inhibit yourself with doubts about dignity or propriety. You love to be with people – lots of people. Your thoughts and interests are turned outwards.
You have both introverted and extroverted tendencies – at different times and on different occasions. Your interests are turned, in about equal proportions, both inwards and outwards. Indeed, you’re quite normal – in the sense that your personality is like that of most people.
People are no damn good
Cynical, embittered, suspicious, he hates everyone. The perfectibility of the human race? ‘Nonsense! No way!’ The stupidity, the meanness, and the crookedness of most mortals – that is his favourite theme.
Women are no damn good
Sometime in your dim past, you were crossed, scorned, or deeply wounded by a woman (a mother, or mother figure, perhaps?). So now you have a carefully constructed defence against further hurt – you hate all women.
Foreigners are no damn good
This person has an irrational hatred and fear for anyone who comes from a different ethnic group. Ignoring the benefits to the local community and the country of having a rich cultural mix, he campaigns for ‘Foreigners go home!’.
The better way
Self-denial, austerity, lonely contemplation – these are the characteristics of the good life, so she claims. The simplest food and the least amount of it that will keep body and soul together, combined with abstinence from fleshy, earthly pleasures, will eventually lead to spiritual perfection – that is her philosophy.
Can you match the words?
egoist = believes in self-advancement
egotist = talks about accomplishments
altruist = is interested in the welfare of others
introvert = turns thoughts inwards
extrovert = turns thoughts outwards
ambivert = turns thoughts both inwards and outwards
misanthrope = hates people
misogynist = hates women
xenophobe = hates foreigners
ascetic = does not pursue pleasures of the flesh
Do you understand the words?
Is an egoist selfish? Yes
Is modesty one of the characteristics of the egoist? No
Is an altruist selfish? No
Does an introvert pay much attention to himself? Yes
Does an extrovert prefer solitude to companionship? No
Are most normal people ambiverts? Yes
Does a misanthrope like people? No
Does a misogynist enjoy the company of women? No
Is a xenophobe afraid of foreigners? Yes
Does an ascetic lead a life of luxury? No
SESSION 24 – ME FIRST
Egoist and egotist are built on the same Latin root – the pronoun ego, meaning I. I is the greatest concern in the egoist’s mind, the most overused word in the egoist’s vocabulary. (Keep the words differentiated in your own mind by thinking of the t in talk, and the additional t in egotist.)
If you are an egocentric, you consider yourself the centre of the universe – you are an extreme form of the egoist. And if you are an egomaniac, you carry egoism to such an extreme that it has become a morbid obsession, a mania.
In Latin, the word for other is alter, and a number of valuable English words are built on this root.
Altruism, the philosophy practiced by altruists, comes from one of the variant spellings of Latin alter, other. Altruistic actions look towards the benefit of others. If you alternate, you skip one and take the other, so to speak, as when you play golf on alternate Saturdays. An alteration is of course a change – a making into something other.
An altercation is a verbal dispute, arising when one person has other ideas. Altercation is stronger than quarrel or dispute; you have altercations over pretty important issues, and you get quite excited.
Alter ego, which combines alter, other, with ego, I, self, generally refers to someone with whom you are so close that you are almost mirror images of each other. Any such friend is your other I, your other self, your alter ego.
Can you match the words?
ego = one’s concept of oneself
egocentric = one who is excessively fixated on his own desires, needs, etc.
altruism = philosophy of putting another’s welfare above one’s own
alter ego = one’s other self
to alternate = to take one, skip one, etc.
egomaniacal = morbidly obsessed with oneself
to alter = to change
altercation = argument
alternative = a choice
egotist = one who talks about himself
Do you understand the words?
Are altruistic tendencies common to egoists? No
Does an alternative allow you some freedom of choice? Yes
Is an alternate plan necessarily inferior? No
Are egomaniacal tendencies a sign of maturity? No
Is altruism a characteristic of selfish people? No
Are egocentric people easy to get along with? No
Does alteration imply keeping things the same? No
Does an egomaniac have a normal personality? No
Is rejection usually a blow to one’s ego? Yes
Doe excitable people often engage in altercations? Yes
SESSION 25 – TURN, TURN, TURN
Introvert, extrovert and ambivert are built on the Latin verb verto, to turn. If your thoughts are constantly turned inwards (intro-), you are an introvert; outwards (extra-), an extravert; and in both directions (ambi-), an ambivert.
The prefix ambi-, both, is also found in ambidextrous, able to use both hands with equal skill. The noun is ambidexterity. Dexterous means skilful, the noun dexterity is skill. Dexter is actually the Latin word for right hand – in the ambidextrous person, both hands are ‘right’ hands. (Spelling caution: Note that the latter following the t- in ambidextrous is –r, but that in dexterous the next letter is –e.)
The Latin for left is sinister. Sinister, in English means threatening, evil, or dangerous, a commentary on our early suspiciousness of left-handed persons. The French word for left is gauche, and when we took this word over into English we invested it with an uncomplimentary meaning. Call someone gauche and you imply clumsiness, generally social rather than physical. A gauche remark is tactless; gaucherie is a clumsy, tactless, embarrassing way of saying things or of handling situations.
And the French word for right is droit, which we have used in building our English word adroit. Needless to say, adroit, like dexterous, means skilful, but especially in the exercise of the mental facilities. Like gauche, adroit, or its noun adroitness, usually is used figuratively. The adroit person is quick-witted, can handle situations ingeniously. Adroitness is the antonym of gaucherie.
Love, hate, and marriage
Misanthrope and misogynist are built on the Greek root misein, to hate. The misanthrope hates mankind (Greek anthropos, mankind), the misogynist hates women (Greek gyne, woman).
Anthropos, mankind, is also found in anthropology, the study of the human race; and in philanthropist, one who loves mankind and shows such love by making financial contributions to charity or by actively helping those in need.
The root gyne, woman, is also found in gynaecologist, a doctor specializing in women’s health. Poloygyny combines this root with poly, many, to mean many women – or rather many wives.
More usually we speak of polygamy, meaning a system of marriage with multiple spouses (usually wives); the root is Greek gamos, marriage. We find this root again in bigamy, having two spouses (prefix bi-, two), and in monogamy, having only one marriage (at a time) (prefix mono-, one). What if a woman has two or more husbands? That custom is called polyandry, from poly plus Greek aner, andros, man, husband.
Xenophobe combines the Greek phobos, fear, with another Greek root, xenos. In ancient Greece, this meant a stranger, but also, just as importantly, a guest. In English, we have the meaning of a stranger who is unwelcome. A xenophobe is a person who hates and fears strangers, particularly foreigners, and particularly ethnically different foreigners; the noun is xenophobia. You find a synonym in racism (a less usual word is racialism).
Living alone and liking it
Ascetic is from the Greek word asketes, monk or hermit. Hence, that person is an ascetic who leads an existence, voluntarily of course, that compares in austerity and simplicity with the life of a monk. The practice is asceticism, the adjective ascetic.
Teaser questions for the amateur etymologist
If a xenophobe is afraid of foreigners, what is a gynophobe afraid of?
Answer: Women; and you do not have to be a misogynist to be afraid of them.
The Greek word for a dog is cuon, cynos. So what is the word for a person who is afraid of dogs?
Answer: Cynophobe. See other phobias in the Appendix.
The Greek word morph meaning shape can be used as a suffix to give words meaning in the shape of; for example, anthropomorph, something in the shape of a human being (as the Greek gods sometimes chose to be when they went out for fun). What shape might a person have if they were a gynandromorphy?
Answer: A gynandromorphy would have the shape of both women and man at once. Some insects are called this, because they have the sex organs of both sexes. Another word for the same thing is hermaphrodite, from the names of the Greek god Hermes and goddess Aphrodite.
The Latin word lingua for tongue or language has come down to us in several words. If someone who can speak two languages equally well is called bilingual, what about someone who can only speak one language?
Sophia is the Greek name for skill, learning, wisdom (and therefore a good name for a girl). Give the etymology of philosophy.
Answer: Philosophy is the love of wisdom: from Greek philos, love, plus sophia, wisdom.
Can you match the words?
anthropology = study of humanity
gynaecology = study of women’s ailments
monogamy = system of only one marriage
xenophobia = hatred of foreigners
gaucherie = clumsiness in social situations
introvert = a person whose thoughts turn inwards
asceticism = devotion to a lonely and austere life
philanthropy = love of mankind
adroitness = skill, cleverness
ambidexterity = ability to use either hand
Do you understand the words?
Does a xenophobe enjoy foreign travel? No
Is a surgeon likely to be dexterous? Yes
Is gaucherie a social asset? No
Is an adroit speaker likely to be a successful lawyer? Yes
Is a student of anthropology interested in the Third World? Yes
Does a gynaecologist have more male than female patients? No
Is monogamy the custom of Western countries? Yes
Is a philanthropist generally altruistic? Yes
Are bachelors necessarily misogynous? No
Is asceticism compatible with the pursuit of pleasure? No
Stick to your time schedule!
Funny thing about time. Apart from the fact that we all, rich or poor, sick or well, have the same amount of time, exactly twenty-four hours every day, it is also true that we can always find time for the things we enjoy doing.
If you have enjoyed learning new words, accepting new challenges, gaining new understanding and discovering the thrill of accomplishment, then make sure to stay with the time schedule you have set yourself.