Today isn’t just any Wednesday, it’s Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent. I used to do the whole “giving something up for Lent” thing, but I found that it didn’t help me become more in tune spiritually, or enjoy the spirit of Easter any more, as I was looking forward to getting whatever ‘treat’ I had given up that year. (Granted, this was better than Lent when I was younger and gave up Lima beans or liver which I never liked anyway.) Still, it felt like I was going through the motions. A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of 40 Acts – where instead of giving up something for Lent, you take something on. While I’ve moved away from organized religion for the time being, I love this concept of giving of myself for 40 days. I can do that in whatever way I feel is best (though if I’m stuck for ideas the 40 acts website has some), whether that’s helping a friend online, donating to the local food bank, or volunteering at the local thrift store.
The challenge this year is to be generous with ourselves to people not only in our inner circle, but also the people around us, the ones we don’t have regular contact with. While planning my acts of generosity, I got to wondering about the word generous, and what it really means. Once again, my curiosity pays off for the blog as it turns out that the word generous has a pretty interesting etymology.
The word generous came into English in the late 16th century, from Old French, which took the word from Latin. This isn’t exactly new, as almost half the words we use in English took this route. Where it gets interesting is the Latin. The first Latin root word was generosus which means noble or magnanimous. This makes complete sense and is in line with the modern meaning of generous. The root of the word generosus, though, is genus, as in gene or generations. The word genus means stock or race. The original meaning of generous was ‘of noble birth’ or ‘characteristic of noble birth’ which was expanded to magnanimous and the rest followed nicely and translated through the years and across languages. I find it very neat that the word generous has the same root as the word genome. Language can be awesome like that.
Generous (gen·er·ous) adjective
(of a person)
- Showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.
- showing kindness toward others.
(of a thing)
- (of a thing) larger or more plentiful than is usual or necessary.
I’ll post the highlights of my 40 Acts deeds on my Facebook page – so if you want to follow along, give me a like!