Re: "Opportunistic"

Subject: Re: "Opportunistic"
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 13:39:06 -0800

McLauchlan, Kevin wrote:
> I'm curious where you think we differ.

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

That certainly is an understatement. It seals the deal on those
opportunistic policymakers.

But here's something else. when I sat down last night with my aging
book-club edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I discovered
that I was the one blinkered by preconceptions. The definition from your
Concise Oxford is the same as OED, but OED traces it back to a deeper
well, through first appearances in written English in the mid 1800s,
then to French political philosophy before that, and ultimately to
Italian, where it originated. As it happened, opportunistic people were
the ones who had to set aside their own opinions and preferences in
order to fulfill their roles as political actors who made public policy
by balancing many interests. IOW, the principles that opportunists are
said to disregard are /t/h/e/i/r/ /o/w/n/ /p/e/r/s/o/n/a/l/
/pr/r/i/n/c/i/p/l/e/s/. The opportunists of yore were more like
dedicated public servants than rapacious scalliwags. If, that is, the
OED is to be believed. Myself, I'm down with it.

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

I wonder if the much maligned/much admired Italian political philosopher
Machiavelli had anything to say about opportunistic behavior?

> 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.

I agree. If opportunism ever stood apart from the opportunites and
actors, it would be colorless, odorless, tasteless. But OMG, the
historical context is savory. It blows me away.

> So, um, what?

May wonder never cease.

> - Kevin

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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

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