Friday’s Dictionary.com Word if the Day was “Overweening”. How this word came to be n the mid-1300’s is a bit confusing. If you look at the verb ween which means “to think; suppose” or “to expect, hope, or intend” you might assume that “overweening” means to over think something or perhaps to have overly high expectations. That makes sense, right?
But you would be wrong! The word overweening means to be conceited or arrogant. What?!
The Etymology Dictionary offers this historical note:
mid-14c., from present participle of verb overwenen “be conceited, presume, be presumptuous, be over-confident,” from Old English oferwenian “to be proud, become insolent or presumptuous;” see over- + ween.
Well, maybe I should have a look, I thought…
“be of the opinion, have the notion” (archaic), Old English wenan “to fancy, imagine, believe; expect, hope,” from Proto-Germanic *wenjan “to hope” (source also of Old Saxon wanian, Old Norse væna, Old Frisian wena, Old High German wanen, German wähnen, Gothic wenjan “to expect, suppose, think”), from *woeniz “expectation,” from PIE root *wen- (1) “to wish, desire, strive for” (see Venus). Archaic since 17c
At this point I could check out Venus as directed. But this, my friends, is how one gets caught up in an endless cyber-loop of links and pings. Suffice to say the name of Venus is also derived from the root “wen” and has to do with desire.
All of this searching only adds to my confusion. How does being over-hopeful translate into being conceited or arrogant. It’s a mystery.
Though modern geeks apparently got the memo and applied a new version to the original. In computing terms according to techtarget.com, when referring to online chat groups, a “Weenie” is “an avid but immature participant who disrupts orderly conversation. According to cyberlorist Eric Raymond, a weenie is “typically, a teenage boy with poor social skills traveling under a grandiose handle derived from fantasy or heavy-metal rock lyrics” whose contributions are liable to consist of “marginally literate and profanity-laden flaming.
However, I must warn you that the word can also be a compliment for a highly qualified programmer or a derogatory title for a UNIX “bigot”. Context is key to determining the difference. Confused yet?
Sometimes it’s best not to overthink something. In this case I just need to take the 14th century’s word for it. Overweening is an adjective that describes an arrogant, conceited person. Period. Here then, is my haiku:
He’s a narcissist
an overweening tyrant
thinks they all love him!
kat – 17 September 2016