What's in a Word | All Blogs


Out of order

By Debra Dobbins

As a child first encountering the adjective “extraordinary,” I was a bit confused. It seemed to me that it was two words squished together: “extra” and “ordinary.” So, to my way of thinking, the word ought to have been describing something really, really common, rather than something exceptional.

What I didn’t realize then was that “extra” can also mean “out,” as well as “more.” With that idea in mind, the “extra” in “extraordinary” makes better sense.

According to the Online Dictionary, the word came from the “Latin extraordinarius ‘out of the common order,’ from extra ordinem ‘out of order.’” In its beginning, it seems, the word really just meant “unusual.”

The dictionary also notes that the word came into English in the early 15th century. As has occurred with many other words, over time the meaning of “extraordinary” began to change.  It took on a more positive connotation of “remarkable” or “exceptional.”

The author of the quote above is Paulo Coelho, a popular Brazilian novelist. “The Alchemist, his most famous novel, has been translated to 80 languages,” according to Wikipedia.

To me, Coelho’s quote is in harmony with one found at brainyquote.com by Orison Swett Marden, a physician and an American spiritual author who lived from 1850 until 1924:

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.”


Violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Paulo Coelho
in Davos, Switzerland, 1999
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Orison Swett Marden
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

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