28 February 2009

Walker Percy Quote

The word boredom did not enter the language until the 18th century. No one knows its etymology...Question: Why was there no such word before the 18th century?
a. Was it because people were not bored before the 18th century?
b. Was it because people were bored but did not have a word for it?
c. Was it because people were too busy staying alive to be bored?

Walker Percy from Lost in the Cosmos (The Last Self-Help Book)

Percy goes on to propose three additional answers, but they take up pages so I didn't include them. This question haunts me for three reasons.
1. I hear people complaining about boredom. I don't believe there is an answer to this. Most people say, "Well, let's go bowling, or to a movie, or to the mall, or to..." I have found myself saying things like, "You should ponder that" or "Think about what you just said." My responses are not popular. My response from now on: "You know, boredom did not enter the lexicon until the 18th century. HMMM." This type of response is very well received.
2. When I bring up the question to friends, there seems to be an underlying terror about the answer (or lack thereof).
3. I got my mouth washed out with soap by a babysitter when I was 11. My crime? Uttering these infamous words, "I'm bored." Oh, the humanity.

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