Simanaitis Says

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CELEBRATING CURIOSITY

FUTURIST R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER expressed his innate curiosity when he said, “Dare to be naïve.” The Inspiring Quotes website amplifies on this with another quote from Fuller; this one in his Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking: “It is one of our most exciting discoveries that local discovery leads to a complex of further discoveries.” 

Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895–1983, American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist.

Here are tidbits about naïvety, curiosity, and discovery.

Naïvety. Merriam-Webster sidesteps “Naïvety” by saying it’s the state of being naïve, or if you prefer the American spelling naive. Either way, naive’s primary definition is on the harsh side: “showing a lack of experience or knowledge, innocent or simple.” Also, “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgement.”

Ouch.

M-W mitigates this a bit with “marked by unaffected simplicity: artless, ingenuous.” This is closer to Fuller’s use of the word, especially in light of his “discovery” comment. That is, being innocent or simple may well lead to curiosity and discovery.

As an example of this, I’m curious about the etymology of naivety. M-W says it comes from “French, naive, feminine of naif, from Old French, inborn, natural, from Latin nativus native.” 

Which, in turn, reminds me about “Beastly and Naive” here at SimanaitisSays. Fauve and Naive artists were bridges between impressionism and abstract modernism in the first years of the twentieth century.

Paysage a l’Estaque, autumn 1906, by Georges Braque. Oil on canvas. 19 5/8 x 24 in.

See the fun of curiosity?

Curiosity. Merriam-Webster nails it: Curiosity is “the desire to learn or know more about something or someone.” It also has a secondary meaning of “something that is interesting because it is unusual.”

Image by Lonpicman from Wikipedia.

I’m reminded of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, printed in book form in 1841 after having been a popular weekly serial begun the year before. Wikipedia tells a charming tale that “New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final installment arrived in 1841.”

Now that’s curiosity.

M-W traces etymology of “curious” to Middle English, from Anglo-French curios, from Latin curiosus careful, inquisitive, from cura cure. 

And then there’s the (perhaps unorthodox) comparative of the word as spoken by Alice in her adventures in wonderland: “curiouser and curiouser,” wherein she “was so much  surprised that for a moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.”

Discovery. To complete my linguistic tour of discovery, Merriam-Webster says that “discover” has etymology tracing to Middle English, from Anglo-French descoverir, descovrir, from Late Latin discooperire, from Latin dis + cooperire to cover. Literally, “to find out what one did not previously know.”

Like about R. Buckminster Fuller, Naïve art, New Yorkers’ wharf-storming, Alice’s excited English, and how much we owe to William the Conquerer’s Anglo-French. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

3 comments on “CELEBRATING CURIOSITY

  1. Andrew G.
    November 16, 2021

    Naïve — I think this is the first time I’ve ever really noticed the umlaut (¨) used in English, as well as an umlaut over the letter “i” instead of ä, ö or ü. I recall from basic German class that an alternate spelling for words using the umlaut is to replace it with a following “e”, e.g. schön can also be spelled schoen in German. (Helpful to know when doing internet searches.)

    Language has always tormented me, but at last, the pronunciation of naive as “nai-eve” makes sense. Thanks, Dennis (and Mr. Fuller)!

    • simanaitissays
      November 16, 2021

      Thank you, Andrew. And let’s call it “fascination,” not “torment.” Think of all the neat thoughts it generates.

    • jac
      November 24, 2021

      I’ve never known if the two dots over the “I” really count as an umlaut. If it was an umlaut, wouldn’t it have 3 dots then? I don’t think French has umlauts. Another msytery.

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