Theme – Optimists and pessimists from fiction who became words
1. Pollyanna (pol-ee-AN-uh)
noun: A naively cheerful and optimistic person.
After Pollyanna Whittier, heroine of novels by Eleanor Porter (1868-1920). Pollyanna is an indefatigable optimist and teaches everyone to play the “glad game”: find something to be glad about, no matter what tragedy befalls.
“So the doctrine of positive thinking does not require you to close your eyes and ears to the world. It does not require you to become a Pollyanna, calling everything wonderful, no matter how horrid it is.”
2. Jeremiah (jer-uh-MY-uh)
noun: A person who complains continually, has a gloomy attitude, or one who warns about a disastrous future.
After Jeremiah, a Hebrew prophet during the seventh and sixth centuries BCE who prophesied the fall of the kingdom of Judah and whose writings (see jeremiad) are collected in the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations.
“Economists are pretty reluctant to forecast a recession … perhaps because no one loves a Jeremiah.
3. Micawber (mih-KAW-buhr)
noun: An eternal optimist.
After Wilkins Micawber, an incurable optimist in the novel David Copperfield (1850) by Charles Dickens. His schemes for making money never materialize, but he’s always hopeful that “something will turn up”.
“As the shadow work-and-pensions secretary, David Willetts, said yesterday, he takes the Mr Micawber approach to economics: something will turn up.”
4. cassandra (kuh-SAND-ruh)
noun: One who prophesies disaster and whose warnings are unheeded.
After Cassandra in Greek mythology who received the gift of prophecy but was later cursed never to be believed.
Cassandra was the daughter of the Trojan king Priam and Hecuba. Apollo, the god of light, who also controlled fine arts, music, and eloquence, granted her the ability to see the future. But when she didn’t return his love, he condemned her never to be believed. Among other things, Cassandra warned about the Trojan horse that the Greeks left but her warning was ignored.
“I had become a Cassandra — I could see bad things on the road ahead but couldn’t stop us from recklessly rolling over them.”
5. Pangloss (PAN-glos)
noun: One who is optimistic regardless of the circumstances.
adjective: Blindly or unreasonably optimistic.
After Dr. Pangloss, a philosopher and tutor in Voltaire’s 1759 satire Candide. Pangloss believes that, in spite of what happens — shipwreck, earthquake, hanging, flogging, and more — “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”
“Steven Pinker is a Pangloss … The world is a better place than it used to be.”
“Don Regan tried to pick up where Mike Deaver left off in the spin game of gilding foul-ups with a Pangloss sheen, but he was a bit too candid.”