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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:19 pm

• morale •

Pronunciation: mê-rælHear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The state of our spirits, the level of confidence in what we are doing.

Notes: The disadvantage of being almost identical with another word is that derivations based on the same suffixes tend to get confused. Morale avoids that confusion by conceding all derivations, like morality and morally to moral. There are no adjectives or verbs derived from today's word. Just remember the final E makes a difference in the pronunciation of these words: morale[moræl] but moral [morêl]. (Click the pronunciations to hear them.)

In Play: Today's Good Word is used most often in referring to the spirits of some group: "Hearing on the financial news that the chief financial officer of the company is resigning is not good for company morale." In his 1874 novel, Phineas Redux, Anthony Trollope observed that "[t]he morale of our aristocracy...would be at a low ebb indeed if the public press didn't act as their guardians." Yet and still, this word may refer to individual morale: "Lionel's unexpected salary raise lifted his morale more than his standard of living."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a variant of moral. In fact, it set out as the feminine (morale) variant of the masculine form moral in French. The French root comes from Latin moralis "moral, ethical", an adjective based on mo(r)s "habit, manner, custom". The root mo- came to Old English with the suffix -t, which changed to -d, resulting in mod "mind, disposition". Today it is mood. In Old High German the same word was muot "mind, spirit", which ended up in Modern German gemütlich "amiable, pleasant". (Today we owe a debt of gratitude to the most amiable and pleasant Barbara Coon for boosting our morale with the spirited Good Word she suggested for today.)
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Postby MTC » Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:40 am

Everytime I have seen the word "morale" I have dimly wondered what it has to do with the word "moral," but life being what is , I have always put this mini-issue aside for more pressing concerns. Today, however, the word being thrust under my nose as it were, the question cannot be avoided. So bear with me...

Merriam-Webster deines MORALE as follows:
"1: moral principles, teachings, or conduct
2a : the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand b : a sense of common purpose with respect to a group : esprit de corps
3: the level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future."

Let's call the first sense of "morale" the "objective ethical" sense. Dr. G has focused on the second and third senses of "morale," what could collectively be called the "subjective mental state" sense.

To narrow and restate the original question, how did the subjective mental state sense of "morale" develop from the ethical objective sense? According to etymoline, the sense of "'confidence' (especially in a military context) (was) first recorded 1831, from confusion with Fr. moral (French distinguishes le moral 'temperament' and la morale 'morality')." (underlining added) How did the confusion occur? Are there sentences which evidence the confused new use? Dr. G explains somewhat cryptically, "The root mo- came to Old English with the suffix -t, which changed to -d, resulting in mod 'mind, disposition'. Today it is mood." I gather this explains how English acquired the word "mood," but not how "morale" developed its subjective sense. Perhaps Dr. G will settle the issue.

I will hang on limpet-like for an answer.
Last edited by MTC on Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:41 pm

I know I go into a 'blue funk' when something is before me
and I don't want to go through with it. But I have a
friend who was facing esophageal cancer since January
and had the best spirit I have ever seen. Surgery was
yesterday, and he is up and walking last night and
already before noon today. "I'm going to conquer this
thing" was his attitude/morale, I guess. A real inspiration
and something that does not come easy for me.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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