RE: "Opportunistic"

Subject: RE: "Opportunistic"
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>, "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 12:49:33 -0500

I'm curious where you think we differ. Stuart had phrased it as if the
crime was to seize an opportunity for one's benefit (consigning any
additional phrasing to parentheses). I was emphasizing that the crucial
part of the meaning is "at the expense of others" (however you care to
word it). Entrepreneurialism and capitalism are criminal concepts only
to those who regard economics as a zero-sum game. To all others, it
isn't, so they aren't, so the extra distinction in the meaning of
opportunisim is necessary.

If I'd reached for MW first, I would have read the same meaning, in only
slightly different words, as what I found in Oxford.

There's really no need to consider secondary and tertiary meanings (and
they were similar to what you quote), since a description of behavior
can be pejorative only for humans, not for animals.

When I compare the primary meanings from both dictionaries, it's the
final phrase that brings out the nasty connotation.

When I read "especially regardless of principle", that's just a Brit's
phrasing of "with little regard to principle..."

In other words, the "regardless of principle" or "with little regard to
principle" are inserted to highlight the fact that we are talking about
behavior that is natural to flora and fauna, but which we humans think
should be tempered (among ourselves) by application of ethical
principles. . . and isn't, when the word "opportunistic" is correctly
applied.

So, um, what?

- Kevin

Poly = many
tic = blood-sucking insect
Politics = ...

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> techwr-l-bounces+kevin -dot- mclauchlan=safenet-inc -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr
-l.com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+kevin.mclauchlan=safenet->
inc -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Ned Bedinger
> Sent: Monday, January 19, 2009 2:54 PM
> To: Techwr-l
> Subject: Re: "Opportunistic"
>
> McLauchlan, Kevin wrote [to Stuart]:
> > The first definition of opportunism in my copy of The Concise Oxford
> > says:
> > the adaptation of policy or judgement to circumstances or
> opportunity,
> > esp. regardless of principle.
>
> Oxford's first definition is pretty darned evocative of cliche-bound
> corrupt, self-aggrandizing poli(cy)ticians. But your British-centric
> dictionary is perhaps a little bit too developed in that
> direction for
> my U.S. English taste. In fact, we're oceans apart.
>
> The online Merriam Webster has a different take, as anyone
> would expect
> of Webster, whose work stemmed from the realization that British
> dictionaries were not cataloging American English. Practical
> concern for
> consequences is, er, perhaps not as relevant today, but my
> understanding
> of opportunistic behavior is broader, pretty much as MW states at the
> outset:
>
> M-W.COM: taking advantage of opportunities as they arise: as (a)
> exploiting opportunities with little regard to principle or
> consequences
> <a politician considered opportunistic> (b) feeding on
> whatever food is
> available <opportunistic feeders> (c) being or caused by a usually
> harmless microorganism that can become pathogenic when the host's
> resistance is impaired
>
> If I may interpret? MW defines 'opportunistic' in broadest terms, and
> gives three iconic examples (a,b,c). There are, of course, a
> realistic
> bazillion other less-observed opportunists acting up at any
> given time;
> climbing a mountain because it's there is vintage opportunism.
>
> There's something strange, IMHO, about the way these definitions and
> examples cater to any predisposition to read bad behavior into merely
> opportunistic things.
>
> I wish MW had used 'avail' instead of 'take advantage', because the
> latter will irrationally suggest 'take unfair advantage' to some.
>
> Some of us will look at the definition of an opportunistic
> pathogen and
> say "Aha. Just like the politicans, these pathogens don't
> care if they
> kill you as long as they get to do what they want to do."
>
> Of pathogens and politicians, true maybe. But not generally true of
> opportunists, opportunism, or opportunistic behavior.
>
> Global nothing,
>
> Ned Bedinger
> doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
>
>
> > It's the final phrase that's key to the tone.
> > Put that up next to the Golden Rule (treat others as you
> would have them
> > treat you), and you see why it has negative connotation.
> >
> > So, "enterprising" is a good choice.
> >
> > But, I see nothing at all wrong with taking advantage of a
> situation for
> > my benefit - that's being enterprising. If you had said
> something about
> > "to the disadvantage of third parties who had never given cause" (or
> > similar), then I'd have agreed with your definition of
> opportunistic.
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: "Opportunistic": From: Stuart Burnfield
RE: "Opportunistic": From: McLauchlan, Kevin
Re: "Opportunistic": From: Ned Bedinger

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