As a copywriter, I often find myself fascinated by what certain words actually mean and where they come from.
How many times have you said or thought to yourself, I just want to be happy! Or, I just want to make other people happy!
Society, in general, seems obsessed with the idea of happiness – and the pursuit of it. And I dare say, the fact that we can never seem to achieve a constant state of “happiness” actually makes us sad. After all, why can’t we be “happy” all the time?
But what does the word “happy” actually mean? And what does it mean to say I want to be happy?
Well, you may be surprised to learn that the word “happy” actually originates from the word “hap” which means “good luck”.
Happy is from the Middle English word hap, meaning “good luck“. Many early European words for happy actually mean good luck, not joy.
My brother, who is a psychologist, calls it a social construct. This is where we, as a society, take an idea and apply our own meaning to it.
And I find it fascinating that we’ve managed to construct an idea that is so far removed from the original intent of the word, while being near impossible to attain because:
- we use it to describe a feeling
- feelings always change
- yet we aspire to be “happy” all of the time
We do not aspire to be “well” or “glad” because these words have a somewhat mellow connotation. They simply don’t feel powerful enough.
We do not aspire to stay “excited” because we know excited is a transient emotion – it comes and goes as things change.
We rarely use the word “joy” anymore, which could be a more accurate way to describe what we want to say (and is another great word to look up!).
When we replace “happy” with “joy” we may recognise that we can’t always feel joy, and we’re OK with that. We may also think of “joy” as something we create on the inside – not something we feel because of what’s happening on the outside.
Before I get too philosophical I’ll stop there. But with all of this in mind, what would it mean for you to take the word “happy” out of your vocabulary for a day…unless you mean good luck?