Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventure Redefined

When I begin my poetry unit in English 1, I talk about the denotative meaning of a word (dictionary meaning) and the connotative meaning of the word (figurative meaning).  I believe this is essential to help students understand the power that each word carries in a sparsely written poem.

I also believe that word choice is an important trait of prose writing as well.  Using one exact word, "le mot juste" as I call it in class, is far more effective than using a string of mediocre adjectives.  It is important for an author to use precise words in order to convey the appropriate meaning to the reader.

So it has occurred to me over these past few days that I have perhaps held too closely to my "connotative" meaning of the word adventure - rather than be willing to embrace the other possible meanings.  See, I have always considered myself a loather of adventure - but I recently decided to investigate  The denotative meaning of the word gives a rather broad definition (as found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary):

  1. an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
  2. an encountering of risks (the spirit of adventure)
  3. an exciting or remarkable or remarkable experience
  4. an enterprise involving financial risk
For as long as I can remember I have only viewed adventure as "danger" and life or death situations.  Neither of those parameters hold any interest to me.

As a child I remember watching Peter Pan and thinking "why would anyone want to remain a boy in Neverland when there were Pirates who threatened one's life?"  This did not sound like fun to me at all.

Then in adolescence the Indiana Jones films taught me that adventure meant snake pits and tied to the stake and constantly being shot at from all directions.  I would rather have a desk job, thank you very much.

My husband has always been intrigued by adventurous experiences like sky-diving and wilderness survival.  Neither of these events sound appealing to me.

So through years of conditioning - I have determined that I am not adventurous.  I do not like adventure and I therefore I am "boring"

But recently it has occurred to me that this is only one definition of the word.  The other definition of adventure is exactly what I am doing this summer when I travel to Paris for two weeks on my own:  an exciting or remarkable experience.  This will be remarkable and it is not an every day event.  I am surprised how many friends have said that they "could never do that" --- travel to a foreign country on their own.  While I admit that I do have a bit of anxiety (especially with regards to navigating the Charles de Gaulle airport) I do not think what I am doing is "death defying"  In fact, I think what I am doing is fun.

So it occurs to me that perhaps I need to rethink my connotative meaning of the word.  I need to stop limiting myself to the box of  'safe and boring' and recognize that I do have an adventurous spirit.  I may not like to take risks - but I do like to travel and pursue those remarkable experiences that reveal themselves through the immersion in a foreign culture.  While eating alone in a restaurant is not a "life or death situation" - it is definitely an experience outside my comfort zone.  But I am willing to risk this uncomfortable feeling to truly experience the French culture.

So today I have decided to call myself an "adventurer" -- maybe not in the league with Indiana Jones, but remarkable none the less.


  1. Oh my goodness, Molly! You definitely have an adventurous spirit - trust me on this one. Oh, and you're also totally creative. I do not lie:)

  2. Lovely post, Molly! It's good to reexamine the boxes that we sometimes put ourselves in. I think going to Paris for two weeks on your own makes you an adventurer. :-)

  3. I like that meaning of adventure too - an exciting and remarkable experience. I'd love to have that kind of adventure in every day life! And your Paris trip sounds like such fun!

  4. Indeed you are an adventurer!

  5. You'll do just fine in the airport---the French people are so great and helpful especially if you practice even poor french.


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