• Panglossian •
pæng-glah-si-ên, pæn-glah-si-ên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, noun
Meaning: Like Doctor Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide: unrealistically optimistic, Pollyannaish, holding the view that this is the best of all possible worlds.
Notes: This adjective is capitalized like most adjectives based on proper names: Pollyannaish, Boswellian, Shakespearean. I know only one such adjective whose spelling allows a lower-case initial letter: Caesarean when referring to Caesar, and caesarean when referring to an operation (section). Today's adjective may be used as a noun referring to a Panglossian person, as 'a Panglossian who sees the world through rose-colored glasses'. Remember the suffix is spelled with an I, not an E.
In Play: The suffix on this word proves that it is basically an adjective: "The Great Recession of 2007 proved the arguments for an unfettered market economy to be based on Panglossian assumptions." As a noun, it refers to people: "Heinrich is a Panglossian who believes that every cloud has a silver lining."
Word History: Voltaire created the name of his character out of two Greek words: pan- "all" + glossa "tongue, language". These two meanings are connected in all languages. We can say figuratively 'the English tongue', but langue in French, yazyk in Russian, ezik in Bulgarian, jezik in Serbian, and lingua in Latin all mean both "tongue" and "language". Since Pangloss was portrayed as the greatest philosopher of his time, he must have spoken many languages. Pan- is the combining form of pas "all" (neuter genitive pantos, derived from PIE pant- "all". We find evidence of this word only in Greek and Tocharian. Greek glossa and gloxis "point" come from PIE glegh-/glogh- "thorn, point, tip", which went into the making of Serbian and Bulgarian glog "hawthorn" in the original PIE sense. (We don't have to be Panglossian to thank George Kovac for yet another Good Word that deserves more attention than it gets.)
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