It has been quite a while since we got out the old language trowel and had a nice little dig in the word garden. But as the summer months have once more come around, we have decided to dust off any old letters and syllables that were sticking to it from last year, and get down to a little bit of verbal tilling once more.
Those of you of a certain age will remember one of our favourite characters from the cheesy and yet still altogether brilliant TV action series The A-Team. The character we have in mind is B.A. Baracus, played by the instantly recognisable Mister T. The initials B.A. in the character's name stood for 'Bad Attitude' and reflected Mr Baracus' at times unco-operative nature.
In modern English, the word 'attitude' is almost always used to describe a state of mind, collection of opionions, or general mental approach to life. But as is so often the case when we do a little digging in the word garden, we find that the root of the modern English word 'attitude' had a rather different meaning. The word derives from the French word 'attitudine' which can be translated as 'posture'. It seems that the use of the word gradually changed, partly because artists used the word 'attitude' to refer to the posture which their subjects adopted while posing for paintings, in order to give the viewer an impression of a certain mental state.
Some schools of thought would point out that the two are fundamentally linked, and it can be interesting to experiment along those lines. Let us try it now! Yes, that's right. Now!
For instance, how about trying to feel depressed while holding the posture of a victorious Olympic athlete. Or maybe try it the other way round. Hunch those shoulders, look down at the floor, grit those teeth and furrow that brow and notice whether it is possible to feel utterly delighted. Try feeling frightened while doing an impression of a fierce dinosaur, or lethargic while dancing like the lovely ladies in an MC Hammer video. Finally, why not try being deadly serious about something or other while wearing a silly hat and a false moustache, raising one eyebrow and smirking?
How did you get on? Hmmmm. Interesting ......
For some time, schools of philosophy have enjoyed pretending that there is a distinct separation between what is referred to as 'mind' or thought and the body or physiology. One is generally considered to be superior or 'in control' of the other. But maybe our little experiment has shed some light on whether that distinction is really as distinct as they would distinctly like to pretend it is. Of course, schools of thought have a vested interest in insisting that it is thought that is in control of things!
So long for now, folks. Have a thoroughly head up, shoulders back day!
"If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both." Bodhidharma
The Happy Cow website and all articles on it are created entirely voluntarily and free of charge. However, if you feel that anything on the site has been of value to you, you may wish to make a voluntary contribution to the upkeep of the site. Click on the 'Donate' button below.
If you have an inspiring tale or some interesting philosophy to share with us, please feel free to e-mail your ideas to