DISCONCERTING: upsetting,confusing, usually in the face of something totally unexpected; perplexing


While the cartoon I have chosen for today is funny, everything relating to the word disconcerting is not funny.

Usually, the word is more related to the definition of upsetting or confusing. If someone is following a map, for instance, and finds themself in the wrong place, it can be really disconcerting.   I am not a map person.  Looking at the many lines of different colors, which frequently change names (I-90 becomes “the New York State Thruway,” which becomes the “Governor Thomas E. Dewey Highway”), is enough to bring about apoplexy in me.

My wife, on the other hand, is best of friends with maps.   She gets it and I don’t.  One of these days I have to learn not to disagree with her when we are trying to find directions, but we’ve only been married 49 years.  Give us time.

A lot of the meaning of disconcerting has to do with expectations.   A person has real confidence in what is going to be the solution to an immediate problem.  When something completely different occurs, it is disconcerting…i.e., infuriating, confusing, maddening.   It just isn’t fair that the result isn’t exactly what that person had anticipated it would be.

The word disconcerting comes from the French word concerter, which means “bring together.”    When you add the “dis” (“des” in French) to it, it becomes the negative alternative, meaning to “not bring together.”  One’s expectations and one’s results are not brought together in a neat package.   The Italian root is concertare, which means to be “in concert.”  If you stop to think about it, that is a creative way to get to the meaning of disconcerting.  If everything is like a concert, there is a harmony.  Instruments play different notes, patterns, and volumes, but they combine to be a beautiful combination.   If they are in disharmony, everyone doing their own thing without regard for the others in the orchestra, there is confusion.

I’ve had numerous conversations over the past week about the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, for instance.   Expectations of many were not met.   For those who are satisfied with the Grand Jury’s decision, there is conflict and confusion.  Out of that confusion has arisen rioting and destruction.   People are unhappy, frightened, and angry.   Is is disconcerting to be in Ferguson; it is also disconcerting  to be anywhere else where a conversation about Ferguson is taking place. I talked with a man this morning who is cautious to the point of secrecy to admit that he thinks the decision may have been a good one (I agree.)   It was handled poorly, making the decision unpopular.  That is disconcerting. It ought to be okay to disagree with the masses, not frightening.

Disconcerting is a word that depicts emotion.   It is less about the actual details than it is about one’s expectations having been dashed.


Cartoon Credit:  I Love Funny Pics

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