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SPENDTHRIFT

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SPENDTHRIFT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:03 pm

• spendthrift •

Pronunciation: spen-thrift • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A financial wastrel, a person who wastes money, spends money prodigiously and wastefully.

Notes: Today's Good Word seems to be an oxymoron comprising a contradiction of terms. How can you be thrifty and spend, too? Today's Word History explains. In the meantime, you may use the adjective, spendthrifty and either noun, spendthriftiness or spendthriftism, even though you don't hear these derivations very often.

In Play: Drawing the line between generosity and spendthriftiness can be difficult: "Owen Cash is such a spendthrift, he took Alison out to a $500 dinner!" More commonly, though, that line is clear: "M. T. Banks ran through all his inheritance like a spendthrift on a mission."

Word History: How did two such oxymoronic words as spend and thrift manage to join up in a word meaning "a financial wastrel"? This word first appeared in print in the first decade of the 17th century. At that time the meaning of thrift was "savings, net worth, wealth", a meaning still alive today in the phrase thrift institutions (savings and loan associations). Someone who spends that kind of thrift for no good reason foolishly risks his or her future, hence the pejorative connotation of spendthrift. Thrift was originally the noun of the verb thrive, as gift is a noun from give. Like gift, the meaning of thrift floated away from the meaning of the verb it was historically derived from. (Today we must thank Gary Parnham of Boston for spending the time it took to add to our lexical thrift by suggesting today's odd little word.)
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Re: SPENDTHRIFT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:16 pm

I find myself pausing when I run across this word, asking whether it means miser or wastrel. I guess it's the oxymoronic quality that does it. Nonsensically, I tell myself it can't be miser, because we already have one word for that, i. e. miser. Of course we also have tightwad, skinflint, and others, but the technique works for me.
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Re: SPENDTHRIFT

Postby Slava » Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:02 pm

I wonder if a change in language would help the entire financial situation. What if we were again to speak of thrift banks, instead of savings banks? Using different words has been known to induce changes to attitudes, no?
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Re: SPENDTHRIFT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:30 pm

Not to go political here, but some have changed "welfare" to "entitlements."
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Re: SPENDTHRIFT

Postby MTC » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:49 pm

Speaking of the oxymoronic or paradoxical quality of "spendthrift," central government economic planners in China today are confronted with the Paradox of Thrift; "while individual thrift is generally averred to be good for the economy, the paradox of thrift holds that collective thrift may be bad for the economy." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift)
Because the Chinese save rather than spend their domestic ecomony suffers, and their overall economy comes to depend too much on exports. But if there were more spendthrifts... Time to empty those cash-filled mattresses, I guess.
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