Dear Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons,
Today on the All Authors Friday Rewind we bring you a new column What's the Word? by Wordsmith Andi.
What’s the Word?
We all do it but how many of us know where the word came from and why we use it?
Let’s break it down:
Procrastinate [proh-kras-tuh-neyt] is a verb meaning: to defer action; delay; to put off till another day or time.
Digging a little deeper, the word came about in the 16th century and has origins in the Latin verb procrastinat, meaning ‘deferred until tomorrow’ which comes from another Latin verb procrastinaire. Since its Latin (tedious language but fascinating in its components) even this word can be broken down even further into the following root words: Pro- ‘forward’ + Crastinus- ‘belonging to tomorrow’ (cras, ‘tomorrow’).
The Romans used this term to denote a positive spin: exercising patience in military conflicts, as in, ‘hey there’s an army threatening to attack! Let’s defer judgment and sit back and wait. I’m sure they’ll be a fool and make a mistake at some point and then we’ve got them!’
The Egyptians actually had two verbs for procrastinating, each lending a different meaning depending on the reason for doing so. Laziness in tasks especially meaningful to subsistence and survival was looked down upon while reserving energy and refraining from pointless, unnecessary tasks was embraced.
What this should tell us is that it’s all a matter of discernment regardless of the language of origination or use.
When we’re procrastinating and berating ourselves for doing so perhaps the best thing to do is to step back and look at it through the filter of “how necessary for my happiness/subsistence is this task today?”
If putting off doing the dishes or washing the laundry isn’t going to affect your long term survival why beat yourself up for putting the task off until tomorrow? However, if procrastinating in your creative works is your key woe and writing is what truly brings happiness and a sense of mental stability to your world, or even better – income - this could rightly be considered a detriment to subsistence. Consider the reasons for your procrastination: are you putting something off out of fear and self doubt or are you simply exercising patience in allowing your characters and/or plot to fully percolate before attempting to harness the words and get them down on paper?
In either case human beings have been procrastinators (at least with an identifiable and usable word to label the action or, in some cases a lack of action) for hundreds of years. That’s probably not going to change anytime soon; procrastinating appears to be part of human nature and it’s up to us as individuals to decide how, when, where, and why we do it as well as reaching some kind of acceptance of the necessity and frequency.
With the word ‘procrastinate’ carrying an often negative connotation perhaps we can adopt a more positive mindset. Instead of calling what we do procrastinating we can think of this act of shuffling daily activities as prioritizing, another great word this Wordsmith looks forward to possibly exploring in a future article.