A listener left a
message expressing his surprise that the word plastic shows up in the writings
of James Fenimore Cooper. ”Just how old is the word?” he asked.
I did a quick search of
Cooper’s works and found the word used in the following passages. Evidently, it
was one of his favorite words.
· “The eyes of the father followed the plastic and
ingenious movements of the son with open delight, and he never failed to smile
in reply to the other’s contagious but low laughter.” [The Last of the
· “. . . for his plastic character had readily
taken the impression of those things that from their propinquity alone pressed
hardest on it.” [Home As Found]
· “Then came the efforts to give her some ideas of
religion, and the deep and lamentable mistakes which, imperfectly explained,
and worse understood subtleties, left on her plastic mind.” [Mercedes of
· “At my age, all the feelings were fresh and
plastic, and grief took strong hold of my heart.”[Afloat and Ashore]
The word comes from the
ancient Greek πλαστικός
(plastikos). Originally, it meant capable of shaping clay, wax, and other art
materials. Applied to non-material realities, it came to mean creative,
impressionable, pliable, fluid, or flexible.
In our day, it has taken
on a negative meaning: artificial, unnatural, superficial, or insincere.
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