Courage vs. bravery

Last time we talked about the word hero—what it means and what it takes to be one. In this post, we’re discussing two words that are often connected to heroism: courage and bravery.

Today the words are used interchangeably, but a look to their history reveals an important difference.

First let’s look at current definitions.

Bravery is the “quality or state of being brave,” and Merriam-Webster, in its unabridged online version, defines brave as “resolute in facing odds; able to meet danger or endure pain or hardship without giving in to fear.” The unabridged dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength enabling one to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty firmly and resolutely.”

It’s worth noting that here Merriam-Webster also defines brave as “having or showing courage.”

Etymology
The current definitions are very similar. Yet, when we look at how courage and bravery came into the English language, a distinction shows.

Merriam-Webster notes that courage is linked historically to cœur, the French word for heart. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the Italian word bravo, meaning “brave, bold.” Bravo, interestingly enough, originally meant “wild, savage,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Meaning
There is a quote that goes “The line between bravery and stupidity is so thin that you don’t know you’ve crossed it until you’re dead.”

That’s the main takeaway when you consider the etymology. Bravery can be the split-second decision to run into a field filled with flying arrows. Bravery can be dangerously close to stupidity, to wild and savage.

Courage, however, takes something deeper. It takes heart. Courage is donating a kidney to your sister because you love her so deeply. Courage is a doctor or a nurse choosing to work in an Ebola-stricken region because they want to relieve human suffering.

Bravery is eating an earthworm sandwich because your buddy dared you.

What do you think?
Is there a difference between courage and bravery? Or should we use them interchangeably? Let me know in the comments.

Erin Servais is a freelance copywriter and copy editor. She’d love to hear about your new project. Learn how to hire her by going to dotanddashllc.com.

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What does “hero” mean?

Hero definition
hero: 1) a person who is greatly admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; 2) a person who is greatly admired
—Merriam-Webster

Hero etymology
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, hero arrived in English in the late fourteenth century. It came from the Greek word heros, which meant demi-god. When it entered English, it meant a man of superhuman strength or physical courage.

Who is a hero? What does it take to be a hero?
Here in the United States, it feels like we are on hero overload. It seems that every soldier coming back from serving in the war on terror is deemed a hero. But what if they had a desk job and never saw combat? What if their “great or brave acts” were scrubbing down naval ships? Does that make them a hero? Should they be greatly admired?

We recently witnessed an act on the other side of the war on terror with the attack in Paris on the staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. In western media, the attackers were portrayed as villains, as anti-heroes. But, do the people who believe in their cause not view them oppositely, as heroes?

Is heroism subjective?
In a 2014 article for The Huffington Post, author Rob Cipriano describes the qualities of a hero as these:

A hero is someone who “we” determine to have demonstrated behaviors and  decisions that are ethically and emotionally worthy of our awe. We see in them something we think is not in us. Given similar conditions, we “think” we might not make the same moves and decisions they do, so we place them in an elevated place in society or in our minds. What is a hero? Someone who inspires us by their example. Someone who moves us emotionally to connect with them at some level in order for us develop a connection with them. We may want to idolize them or place them in high personal regard. We may   want to connect with them in a personal way by focusing on them to garner  their strength or will-power.

Then, it seems, everyone can have their own definition of hero based on the qualities they deem to be worthy of admiration.

So, what is it?
We can read all the definitions and descriptions we want, but I don’t think it gets us any closer to a universal template of hero. It seems to me that a hero is whichever person you want it to be. But, I think we should all think hard about what qualities we want to attach to our own definition.

What do you think? What qualities do you think it takes to become a hero? Who are your heroes? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know.

A villainous etymology

villain: a character in a story, movie, etc., who does bad things
Merriam-Webster

I’ve been on a major Shakespeare kick lately. One thing I noticed in my devouring of his plays is how many times the bard used the word villain. I mean, it’s a lot. If you turned it into a drinking game, taking a sip every time he used it (which you shouldn’t do because that’s dangerous), you’d in a sad state by act II.

This got me thinking about the etymology of villain. By its spelling, I assumed it came from French (it does), but I didn’t expect it would have much of a story after that. I was wrong. The Online Etymology Dictionary gave me the details.

Villain comes from the Old French word vilain, which does not mean “a bad guy in a cape lurking in the shadows.” It originally meant, in the twelfth century, a “peasant, farmer, commoner, churl, yokel.” In other words, a villain was just a regular guy who was unfamiliar with the trappings of high society.

Before Old French, villain had roots in the Medieval Latin villanus, meaning “farmhand.” Before that was the Latin villa, meaning “country house, farm.”

So, is it really so bad to be a villain? Shakespeare still thought so:

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables—meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 5

 

 

Death and Taxes

 

Today is tax day. And like many cash-strapped red, white, and blue-blooded ’Mericans, I filed for an extension. For a lot of us across the globe (exempting those rich @#$!s with offshore tax shelters), there’s much truth to the famous saying: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

That phrase is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established. Everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Franklin wrote this in French, and English translations vary.)

However, Franklin wasn’t the first to bemoan this reality. In 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in his play, Cobbler of Preston, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”

In 1724, playwright Edward Ward wrote in The Dancing Devils, “Death and taxes, they are certain.”

And, Daniel Defoe wrote in his 1726 book, The Political History of the Devil, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Well, maybe there is one more thing certain in life other than death and taxes: politicians taking credit for other people’s ideas.

Happy tax day everyone!

 

 

 

 

Words and phrases Shakespeare invented

William Shakespeare wasn’t just one of the greatest and most influential playwrights in history, he was also a mega wordsmith. Some estimates say the bard coined 1,700 words, many of which we use daily—like eyeball. Seriously. Eyeball.

Here’s a sample of words Shakespeare invented:

  • addiction (Othello)
  • bedazzled (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • belongings (Measure for Measure)
  • bloodstained (Titus Andronicus)
  • cold-blooded (King John)
  • eventful (As You Like It)
  • eyeball (The Tempest)
  • fashionable (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jaded (King Henry VI)
  • laughable (The Merchant of Venice)
  • manager (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • mimic (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • moonbeam (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • new-fangled (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • obscene (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • puking (As You Like It)
  • scuffle (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • swagger (Henry V)
  • uncomfortable (Romeo and Juliet)
  • zany (Love’s Labour’s Lost)

Shakespeare also coined many popular phrases. Here is a sample:

  • all’s well that ends well (All’s Well that Ends Well)
  • bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)
  • be all and the end all (Macbeth)
  • brave new world (The Tempest)
  • break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • fancy-free (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • flaming youth (Hamlet)
  • for goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)
  • foregone conclusion (Othello)
  • full circle (King Lear)
  • good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)
  • it was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)
  • heart of gold (Henry V)
  • in a pickle (The Tempest)
  • in my heart of hearts (Hamlet)
  • in my mind’s eye (Hamlet)
  • kill with kindness (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
  • neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)
  • parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)
  • pomp and circumstance (Othello)
  • salad days (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • sea change (The Tempest)
  • something wicked this way comes (Macbeth)
  • to thine own self be true (Hamlet)
  • too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
  • wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

Now goeth forward, dear readers, and speaketh awesome words. And if you can’t think of the right one, do like Shakespeare did and just make one up.