IMPETUOUS [im-PECH-oo-uh s] : impulsive, an action done without a lot of thinking


Yes, in case you recognize the torso of the cliff jumper in the photo, it is Justin Bieber.  I didn’t have to search very far to find an article about him which fits today’s word, impetuous.  In his short, but colorful, career, there have been dozens of times when his picture has appeared on the front pages of newspapers or magazines doing things that are reckless or impulsive.

To do something impetuous is to undertake an action that, by any other standard, would be considered just plain stupid for one reason or another.  Perhaps it’s boredom, or a juvenile sense of being immortal, but Justin has done some things that have been life-threatening, police enticing, or career-ending…and survived.  ‘

For a highly-paid, publicly adored, and even talented young man like Justin Bieber to do something that causes his family, friends,or fans to nearly faint, falls easily into the category of impetuous.

Oh, he’s not the only public figure that undertakes a really, really dumb action,knowing that it could all end in a reckless moment.  Some months ago Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady, dove off a cliff also, and his critics declared him irresponsible and maybe even delirious to even think about doing such a thing at this point in his career.  (To my mind, it exceeded the reputed deflating episode that is so much in the  media these days.) 

But you don’t have to be a big star to be impetuous.

A politician who makes inappropriate statements without thinking it out first is just as impetuous…no matter how many hotels he owns or whether he was born in Canada or the U.S.  It may seem to (him) that the public enjoys speeches filled with blathering and blustering, but on election day they are more serious.

Side remarks by television anchors may seem funny at the moment, but by the morning news cycle they have offended somebody and may cost them their jobs.

Stand-up comedians may use profanity and crude comments to get a laugh, but when their kid repeats it in school and is bounced, it isn’t all that funny.

To be impetuous is to act without giving it serious thought.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve considered doing something stupid, only to be stopped in my place by a conscience or a well-meaning family member who holds me back.  And there are times I wish either had been there.  I blundered forward and paid a price for it.   Impetuous is not an adjective which wears well on me.

The word impetuous has an interesting origin, having emerged in  late Middle English: from Old French impetueux; from late Latin impetuosus, from impetere ‘to assail, attack.’  That’s interesting, as most people today would associate doing something impetuous  to be more related to harming one’s self rather than attacking or assailing someone else.

In any case, the formula for resisting an impetuous act is to

  1. stop
  2. think about the potential consequences
  3. evaluate the worst case scenario.

Easier said than done.


politicians, Photo Credit:

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