Word of the Day: Fatalistic

I keep hearing people on the news use the word “fatalistic” to refer to someone who is being really negative/pessimistic about a situation.

For example, “Is the mayor of New Orleans being as fatalistic about the situation as the Army Corps of Engineers?” The person asking the question was trying to find out if the mayor felt the situation was dire and was going to be bad.

“Fatalistic,” however, doesn’t really mean bad/negative/pessimistic. A fatalistic is someone who believes in fate. For a situation to be fatalistic it would be wrapped up in fate or predetermined — not necessarily to be all gloom and doom. Granted, something could be fated to be bad (which is how “fatalistic” is generally understood), but it doesn’t have to be.

I’m not trying to be snooty about this — I didn’t know the difference until my friend was called a fatalist by her philosophy professor. We thought that it meant she was really negative, but really, it meant that she believed in fate.

Oh the fun of language!

As for the news broadcasters — I do sort of wish that they would be more careful of their use of language.

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