Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In looking up "compete" in the OED, the etymology is surprisingly long, compared to other words:

"[repr. L. compet-{ebreve}re, in its post-classical active sense ‘to strive after (something) in company or together’, f. com- together + pet{ebreve}re to aim at, go toward, try to reach, seek, etc.: see prec. No such sense is recognized by Littré for mod.F. compéter, but Cotgrave has ‘competer, to be sufficient for, sutable with, agreeable vnto; also, to belong or appertaine to’ (= prec. vb.); also, ‘to demaund, or sue for the same thing that another doth’ (which corresponds to this). Florio 1598 has It. competere ‘to contend or striue for any suite, office, place, or dignitie,’ [1611] ‘to contend or striue with another for maistrie’; Minsheu has Sp. compéter ‘to be meet for, to agree with’ (= prec.); ‘to sue with another for anything, to content or striue for any suit, office, or dignity’. The early related words in Eng. are competitor, competor; cf. also

COMPETENCE, COMPETENCY, sense I. Though in occasional use in 17th c., this verb is not in Johnson, nor in Todd 1818, Seager 1819, Jodrell 1820; it is given by Richardson (without quotations) as ‘now not uncommon in speech’; by critics, in 1824, it was styled ‘a Scotticism’, and ‘an American discovery’.] "

I think it very interesting that it wasn't defined in Johnson, Todd (1818) or Jodrell (1820) and then in Richardson it is called "not uncommon in speech" and in 1824 called "an American discovery." Maybe! It does sound very American. Not being a linguist, it's not as easy for me to analyze this etymology, but its derivation seems more complex than other words, though "competition" is simply described as deriving from "agreement, a judicial demand, rivalry, n. of action f. compet{ebreve}re."

Wherever it comes from, I've always been a competitor. I loved sports as a kid and excelled at softball. However, I wasn't all that good in my favorite sport, basketball, because I am too short, so I chose to cheerlead, rather than to play something I stink at (as my son says). To this day I really can't watch a basketball game because I have a fit when the other team gets a basket. My husband says, "What do you want, the other team to be skunked??!!"

But of course it isn't only in sports. Indeed, I am not an avid sports fan (except for the Bulls). I hate football for example and while I like the Cubs, they lose too much. However, competition is around in my personal and professional life, too. I am sure I inherited it from my mom's side. She and her father were worse than me...slamming the table when they'd lose at cards. My family all loved hearts, bridge and euchre. I remember I was playing bridge with my parents and my boyfriend (newish), and my mom had to have my boyfriend for her partner. I knew why. She wanted to cheat! So, she got dealt a typical short club opening bid, but not everyone plays a short club...and you can't ask after the hand has been dealt or it gives everything away to your partner. Never fear. My mom knew I'd not challenge her with my boyfriend as her partner. So, big as you please, with her first bid after the cards were dealt, she brazenly said, "Do you play a short club, honey?" Grrrr! That gave the whole hand away, and of course they won it. Now, one would think I might forget that since I was 18 at the time. No way!

When I get off the train and go down the steps, I cannot stand it when people in back of me beat me. I make it into a race, and I've beat 6 foot tall, young men down the stairwell. Not bad for a short, not so young lady!

And of course on Wordcraft there are the limerick and bluffing games. When we kept score in the bluffing game, I was a wreck. Now that we don't keep score, I am much better, though I get peeved when people don't choose my daffynition. With limericks? Well, I'm not the world's best limerick writer, and I know that intellectually. The meter and rhymes I get right. However, the content could be more clever, and others are much better at that (particularly my husband, who has every once in awhile helped me write something that wins). But in my heart? Oh, I hate not winning!

Professionally? I am not sure I'd call it competitiveness, but I surely strive to be the best. Of course, I am not the best, but I work very hard at it. So, in the end, there are some positivenesses to being competitive. I think it helps you in your work. However, it can make you downright crazy!

[Don't I have the best blog going????]

1 comment:

Cat said...

I've tried so hard not to be competitive in my life. It's nearly impossible if you care about what you're doing! Now, I can brush it off with games, usually . . . my dad taught me that . . . but with work it is hard hard hard! Not getting that promotion when someone w/less library exp got it . . . well, that will rankle for the rest of my life!