concept "idleness/laziness"
Thread poster: Roman Bouchev

Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
English to Russian
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May 17, 2006

I'm doing some research on the issue of idleness in English proverbs and sayings at the humanities university. The paper I'm soon supposed to speak on before a panel of language experts and teachers is rather challanging undertaking. I've learned a lot about the Russian concept of being lazy through cognitive studies, but nothing about the attitude of English speakers towards the word "idle/lazy".
-Is there any "national character" that is typical of English proverbs or fairy tales? -Is laziness/idleness condemned/tolerated or sympathized with in English proverbs?
- Do English speakers differentiate between the notions of being IDLE/LAZY/SLUGGARD/LOAFER/?
- Can the concept of idleness be regarded as one of KEY English traits?


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:21
French to English
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idleness is viewed as sinful May 17, 2006

In the United States, with its tradition of what is referred to as the Protestant work ethic, idleness is regarded as a serious character flaw, with strong religious overtones. There is a popular saying that "idle hands are the devil's playground," and recall that "sloth" is one of the seven deadly sins.

I believe there are some differences in the meanings of "idle" and "lazy." "Idle" suggests a moral failure, whereas "lazy," while certainly a negative term, is less severe. It is likely to be used of teenagers who sleep late or employees who are less than diligent in performing their duties, but doesn't immediately suggest that their mortal souls are in jeopardy.


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
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still at a loss (eager for truth) May 17, 2006

Thank you, Richard! I greatly appreciate your willingness to lend me a hand in this challening undertaking. I regard your opinion as valuable as gold for my research.
You know, I’ve learned a lot about the Russian concept of being lazy but I still don’t know for sure if there is any possibility to communicate nuances in the use of idleness/laziness/indolence as cognitive units in the English language awareness. Could you help me with this? The dictionaries I’ve consulted convey almost the same understanding and meaning of the words, specifically IDLENESS. A number of celebrated Russian poets and prose writers responded differently to the idea of being lazy investing it with a range of subtle connotations at various milestones, but I’ve failed to trace the evolution of the word “idleness/laziness” in proverbs except for considering it a completely different category. At least, I lean towards the assumption that the view of being lazy in England and Russia is somewhat similar. The Russian language, however, seems to me a more copious recorder of proverbs and sayings representing idleness/laziness from contradictory angles in the XVIII, XIX centuries. Is there any word within the synonymic range of lazy-related adjectives that stands for an exemplar of virtue or a source of inspiration, romance or mental repose [otdochnovenie dushi] as treated by Pushkin in his poems? I know that some English writers have touched upon idleness in their works: Lord Chesterfield, Isaac Watts, Jane Austen, Thomas Carlyle, E.M.Cioran, Bishop Richard Cumberland, John Dryden, Jerome K. Jerome, Jenny Joseph, Don Marquis, Will Self, Derek Walcott, Edward Young, and Samuel Johnson. Of course, the Bible is no exception. What about the English folklore then? The idea of laziness should be universal for any culture, but only speakers are more responsive to associations established with words and expressions, I presume. Am I right?


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
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English to Russian
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still at a loss May 17, 2006

I believe there are some differences in the meanings of "idle" and "lazy." "Idle" suggests a moral failure, whereas "lazy," while certainly a negative term, is less severe. It is likely to be used of teenagers who sleep late or employees who are less than diligent in performing their duties, but doesn't immediately suggest that their mortal souls are in jeopardy.

You know, I’ve learned a lot about the Russian concept of being lazy but I still don’t know for sure if there is any possibility to communicate nuances in the use of idleness/laziness/indolence as cognitive units in the English language awareness. Could you help me with this? The dictionaries I’ve consulted convey almost the same understanding and meaning of the words, specifically IDLENESS. A number of celebrated Russian poets and prose writers responded differently to the idea of being lazy investing it with a range of subtle connotations at various milestones, but I’ve failed to trace the evolution of the word “idleness/laziness” in proverbs except for considering it a completely different category. At least, I lean towards the assumption that the view of being lazy in England and Russia is somewhat similar. The Russian language, however, seems to me a more copious recorder of proverbs and sayings representing idleness/laziness from contradictory angles in the XVIII, XIX centuries. Is there any word within the synonymic range of lazy-related adjectives that stands for an exemplar of virtue or a source of inspiration, romance or mental repose [otdochnovenie dushi] as treated by Pushkin in his poems? I know that some English writers have touched upon idleness in their works: Lord Chesterfield, Isaac Watts, Jane Austen, Thomas Carlyle, E.M.Cioran, Bishop Richard Cumberland, John Dryden, Jerome K. Jerome, Jenny Joseph, Don Marquis, Will Self, Derek Walcott, Edward Young, and Samuel Johnson. Of course, the Bible is no exception. What about the English folklore then? The idea of laziness should be universal for any culture, but only speakers are more responsive to associations established with words and expressions, I presume. Am I right?


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Phyllis Mitzman
Local time: 07:21
Dutch to English
No good meanings in English May 17, 2006

Hello,
The synonyms my thesaurus gives for lazy: idle, inactive, indolent, inert, lackadaisickal, laggard, lethargic, negligent, shiftless, sleepy, slothful, sluggish, supine, torpid, weak, worn (which I cannot see as a synonym).
For idle it gives: aimless, barren, dormant, futile, inactive, indolent, inert, lazy, pointless, shiftless, slothful, unemployed, unimportant, unoccupied, unprofitable, unused, useless, vain.
In the group for idle, inert and dormant are value-neutral, but all the others are negative. Perhaps you have hit upon a genuine cultural difference here between Russians and English speaking people. If one wants to convey a "dormant "period in a creative process (where no active writing is being done), the words "lazy" or "idle" would not be used, since they clearly only have negative associations. This type of period might be described as thoughtful, ruminating, pensive, digestive, and words that convey something is happening in the mind but may not be manifest to the outside world.


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Adam Dean  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:21
German to English
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The Idler May 17, 2006

To my mind, laziness is a general disposition to doing nothing. Being idle is more of a conscious decision. Here in the UK, there is actually a magazine called "The Idler" that promotes a more laid-back way of life.

You can visit the website here (http://www.idler.co.uk/). They also have an online forum where I'm sure people would be happy to discuss their views on laziness/idleness.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:21
Spanish to English
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Lazy you have something to do, idle you don't but should May 17, 2006

I'm not sure about this but I think lazy is when you should be going about the things you have to do but but are just slobbing out, and idle, a much more sophisticated word, would be for someone who is workshy. So idle would be a personality trait and lazy a temporary state.

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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 13:21
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
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There's no English (British, American, Aussie) Oblomov... May 17, 2006

as far as I know. So maybe you can turn the knife around and talk about "How come there's no English speaking Oblomov?" with a subtitle "- Or am I missing something?"

smo

[Edited at 2006-05-17 15:36]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 09:21
Spanish to English
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That's right ... May 17, 2006

A Dean wrote:

To my mind, laziness is a general disposition to doing nothing. Being idle is more of a conscious decision. ...


I agree. A lazy person will be happy doing nothing. An idle person is not necessarily happy at all: a factory worker may be 'idle' because the raw materials for his work are delayed, or because there's a strike at another factory. A car engine, ticking over with the car going nowhere, is said to 'idle' - but it's ready to go when required.

Summarising:
lazy = not disposed to be active
idle = inactive

HTH
MediaMatrix


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
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fairy-tale laziness May 17, 2006

Vito Smolej wrote:

as far as I know. So maybe you can turn the knife around and talk about "How come there's no English speaking Oblomov?" with a subtitle "- Or am I missing something?"

smo

[Edited at 2006-05-17 15:36]

Let there be no Oblomov in other parts of the English speaking world, which is quite "educational" to me, but there should some sort of a 'hero', so to speak, that is emblematic of the national identity in terms of concepts people live by, namely the idea of being idle in proverbs. Isn't it so?


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
English to Russian
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Addendum to the threads May 17, 2006

Is it possible to talk about idleness as a general trait inherent in the English character? Is there any striking difference between Russian and English idleness in proverbs or general usage?

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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
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nothing positive at all? May 17, 2006

phyllis mitzman wrote:

Hello,
The synonyms my thesaurus gives for lazy: idle, inactive, indolent, inert, lackadaisickal, laggard, lethargic, negligent, shiftless, sleepy, slothful, sluggish, supine, torpid, weak, worn (which I cannot see as a synonym).
For idle it gives: aimless, barren, dormant, futile, inactive, indolent, inert, lazy, pointless, shiftless, slothful, unemployed, unimportant, unoccupied, unprofitable, unused, useless, vain.
In the group for idle, inert and dormant are value-neutral, but all the others are negative. Perhaps you have hit upon a genuine cultural difference here between Russians and English speaking people. If one wants to convey a "dormant "period in a creative process (where no active writing is being done), the words "lazy" or "idle" would not be used, since they clearly only have negative associations. This type of period might be described as thoughtful, ruminating, pensive, digestive, and words that convey something is happening in the mind but may not be manifest to the outside world.

Is there any word out of the synonym list you have extracted that suggests an inspirational impetus for creating poetical verses as it was the word "idleness" construed by Pushkin?


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
English to Russian
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going deeper May 19, 2006

Wikipedia defines the word SLOTH as follows:
Sloth (Latin, acedia)
Sloth (apathy, indifference) —
Apathy, idleness, and wastefulness of time. Laziness is particularly condemned because others must work harder to make up for it. Cowardice or irresponsibility. Abandonment, especially of God. Sloth is a state of equilibrium: one does not produce much, one does not consume much. Dante wrote that sloth is the "failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind and all one's soul". Associated with goats and the color light blue. The childish of the two misplaced childhood.
Does the defintion really correspond with how native speakers of USA and England feel about it? Why is it "associated with GOATS and the COLOR LIGHT BLUE".


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Roman Bouchev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
English to Russian
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climbing further... May 19, 2006

Vito Smolej wrote:

as far as I know. So maybe you can turn the knife around and talk about "How come there's no English speaking Oblomov?" with a subtitle "- Or am I missing something?"

smo

[Edited at 2006-05-17 15:36]

Ok. But how do the English ordinarily identify IDLENESS in their daily routine and literary traditions? No folklore symbol that is historically typical of England? I can't believe it. I once happened to read a story about Lazy Jack. Is the character depicted in that book associated with the idea of laziness/idleness in England with youth?
What about the Frederick Leighton's bronze-cast "Sluggard":
[img=http://artfiles.art.com/images/-/Frederick-Leighton/Bronze-Statuette-Of-The-Sluggard-Giclee-Print-C11786297.jpeg]

Russian literature is rich in connotations and associations that a constellation of lyric poets and writers attached to being lazy/idle. Batushkov was the first to represent laziness as an indispensable engine of poetic insipration. Vyasemsky typifies a dressing-gown clad cultured personality pacing back and forth about his room and musing. Krylov is described as sprawling out on the sofa and so on.
Wikipedia: What is considered laziness varies depending on cultural/societal context and magnitude, but it is generally considered a negative quality, as in SLOTH. Laziness can be considered an EXAGGERATION of the natural instinct to do nothing that makes people get HEALTHY rest.
What associations usually accompany the word IDLENESS in England with regard to proverbs and sayings?


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