Tags: university of notre dame


by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: November 4, 2012
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I have a passion for words. So do the other Viva Scrivas and, I imagine, so do you. Words, history, and culture intertwine. Examine the etymology of a word and you’ll often find a good story.

No wonder I was delighted to come across an essay from the University of Notre Dame that included the historical uses of the word “generosity.” Entitled “Science of Generosity,” the essay explores “an essential human value.” Here’s the link.

“Gener”—the essay explains—grows out of the Indo-European root “gen” meaning “to beget.” Until sometime in the later Middle Ages, “generous” referred to being of noble lineage. The word described a status. You had the luck of being born into the right clan.

Then sometime in the 1600s the meaning of generosity, as it described humans, began to shift to the supposed qualities of the highborn: courage, gallantry, and fairness. Anyone could strive to be generous, no matter his or her accident of birth.  Over the next two hundred years, the English usage of “generosity” took on the meaning of open-handed sharing of wealth and possessions.

Now, as I meet more and more authors in Oregon and beyond, I am struck by the generosity with which many of them share advice on writing, information on agents and editors, and suggestions for professional opportunities. Viva Scriva is my gold standard—isn’t that what a writer’s critique should be?

And here’s the big bonus for me as a writer. The generosity of my critique group and many in my expanding community of “creatives” fosters my own creativity. I feel more generative. My ideas beget ideas. Words turn into story. A book is born.

Thank you.


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