Printable Version
Pronunciation: thing-iz-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: Concern for physical stuff, material objects in defining one's life, rather than the spiritual or imaginary.

Notes: A number of words have been derived from thing. They include thinger or thingist "someone who defines their life in terms of thingism", thingly "material, real", thingification, a macaronic word meaning "reification" and, of course, thingamabob, thingamajig, thingamadoodle, and other such nonsense words.

In Play: We see thingism in ads and commercials on radio, television and in newpapers and magazines. We also see it in others: "Jack Pott is an empty shell of a man consumed by thingism—a thoughtless impulse buyer who mindlessly accumulates stuff." George Carlin's mockery of the accumulation of "stuff" was a criticism of thingism.

Word History: Today's Good Word is translation of a French word introduced by Jean Paul Sartre in 1936, chosisme. This word comprises chose = thing + -isme = ism. Thing started its life as an Old English word meaning "assembly, council" but by Middle English came to mean "act, thing taken up in a meeting" and, finally, to its current, broadened meaning. The Icelandic parliament is still called Alþingi and the Danish counterpart, the Folketing. German Ding "thing, matter" and Dutch ding underwent semantic broadening similar to English. We can only surmise where the Proto-Germanic word (thinga-) came from. The best guess is that it had to do with time, a stretch or time or an appointed time, which means it could have come from PIE ten- "to stretch", the source of English thin. But that would take us farther down the road of speculation that I would care to go.

Dr. Goodword,

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