Re: "Opportunistic"

Subject: Re: "Opportunistic"
From: "Downing, David" <DavidDowning -at- users -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 10:43:21 -0600

From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Subject: Re: "Opportunistic"

Robert_Johnson -at- percussion -dot- com wrote:
> Some of my co-workers would like to use this word, but others are
> concerned about the negative connotation. They have a point; all the
> dictionary entries I've found emphasize its negative connotation, with

> shades of unscrupulous or unethical behavior.

I don't know what is wrong with dictionaries and thesauruses these
days--they seem to employ lexicologists who need to get out more often.

Opportunism, as a concept, is couched as a value neutral strategy, a
means to an end, that is enabled when a chance or serendipitous
opportunity presents itself.

Biology especially uses 'opportunism' in this purely descriptive sense.
If they didn't, an opportunistic parasite would mean something like
parasites that foreclose on orphanages, or have links to organized
crime. That is a definition that mirrors bankers and politicians, not
parasites. IOW, those unsavory actors have lent their identity to
opportunism, to opportunism's detriment. If you let it mean only that,
what term will mean simply seizing a chance when it presents itself?


Note two things about this set of definitions from Websters:

(1) The first definition is, ion fact, neutral.

(2) The definition that applies to biology does have a negative
connotation -- that of taking advantage of an organism's weakened state.


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