Word of the Day: nostalgia

Interestingly, today’s word was once upon a time considered a medical condition.

Back in 1668, German Physician Johannes Hofer coined the word and defined it as “severe homesickness.” It is derived from the Greek words nostos (homecoming) and algos (pain). I never really thought about it before but the word nostalgia does look and sound like some kind of disease or disorder.  (See: myalgia)

The more modern definition of nostalgia as a sort of wistful longing for the past was first recorded in 1920. Nowadays however, the word can also be defined as not necessarily a desire to return to the past, but simply an appreciation for it.

Naturally, this means that the nostalgic tend to look at their particular favorite time in the past through rose-colored glasses, seeing only the good things and disregarding the bad. For example, many people these days long for the simpler times before cell phones and broadband internet connections, but of course they tend to forget how much harder life was back then.

Somehow I got through high school and most of college having used actual books, magazines, and microfiche/film as research material for reports and papers. I remember typing high school homework assignments on a Smith Corona typewriter. Sure, the internet was around in the mid-90s when I started college, but it was all as new and wild as an Old West frontier town. Many of my professors and teachers did not entirely trust the content on the internet (and rightly so) and therefore they simply would not accept internet-based sources.

The young people of today tend to not appreciate how easy they have it, but it’s not at all their fault. Just as Generation Xers like me cannot remember a time when there was no television, the Generation Y kids cannot remember a time when there was no internet.

They were born into the information age.

Stay tuned…

7 thoughts on “Word of the Day: nostalgia

  1. It was a surprise to me as well. Back then it was actually possible to be diagnosed as “suffering” from nostalgia.

  2. Wonderful piece. I did not know any of that. I do remember reading an article a while back in one of the gazillion magazines I read about how music was losing its nostalgic element because of it being so readily available and prevalent now. Used to be if you had a favourite song from say 20 years ago, you would hear it only rarely. Now, push a button, and whoosh. What I got from that was that the feeling of nostalgia had something to do with access, and yeah, those rose-coloured glasses. Got me some more of those. The tint is wearing off of mine.

  3. Interesting point, Ken. How could the music of our generation have any nostalgic value for the current one if they recently discovered it on YouTube?

    It can’t, but I’m not entirely sure that the recent discoverers of music that was around long before any of them were born appreciate it less than those of us who were. For us it’s nostalgic. For them it’s “Wow! This is amazing!”

    It almost makes me jealous.

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