Nervous, Excited and Enthusiastic

happy_monster_by_pseudooctopus-d4rnfylAs some of you may have heard, the first international editors’ conference, Editing Goes Global, will be taking place in Toronto from June 12-14. Some of you may also know that I will be speaking at the conference. I will be co-presenting a session called “Introduction to Networking: It’s Not as Scary as You Think” with fellow blogger and EAC member, Sue Archer. (If you haven’t already, you should really check out Sue’s blog, Doorway Between Worlds.)

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve never spoken at a conference before. So, as the conference draws closer I’m starting to feel some feelings about that. Today, I thought I’d share some of those feelings by exploring their etymological roots with all of you.


Yep. I am definitely feeling nervous. Well, the modern version of nervous, that is. The word first appeared in English around 1400, when it referred to something that affected the sinews. It came from the Latin word nervosus, meaning sinewy or vigorous, which came from the noun nervus, meaning a sinew or a nerve. It wasn’t until the 1660s that nervous was used to describe something pertaining to the nerves, and not until 1734 that is was used describe someone suffering from a disorder of the nervous system. Its more modern sense, describing someone who is restless, agitated, or lacking nerve, first appeared around 1740 — the term nervous wreck showed up in the 1860s.

Who knew that when I tore a ligament in my calf a couple of years ago, I was in a nervous state? You’ve got to love the way language usage evolves!


This is probably the feeling I’m feeling the most. In this case, I think I’d argue that what I’m feeling is better described by the original definition of excited. The word first appeared in English in the 1650s, when it was used to describe someone or something that was magnetically or electrically stimulated. It came from the English word excite, which may have come from the Old French esciter or the Latin excitarer, both meaning to call out, summon forth, or produce. Excitarer came from the Latin exciere, meaning to call forth or instigate, which was formed by ex-, meaning out, and ciere, meaning to set in motion or call. The more modern meaning, describing someone or something that is emotionally agitated, turned up in the early 1800s.


This feeling (the modern version) comes and goes, depending on how much sleep I’ve had. The word itself first appeared in English around 1600, when it had something to do with possession by a deity. It came from the Greek word, enthousiastikos, meaning inspired, which in turn came from another Greek word, enthousiazein, meaning to be possessed or inspired by a god. In the 1690s, it took on more negative connotations, being used to describe irrational delusions in religion. Somehow, by the 1780s, it had taken on its modern meaning, describing feelings of intense or rapturous eagerness.

Maybe I can can arrange to be possessed by a deity so I don’t have to feel nervous?

If you’re going to the conference in June, please be sure to stop and say hello if you see me!

Image credit: Pseudoctopus @ deviantART

15 thoughts on “Nervous, Excited and Enthusiastic

    1. That’s closer to Toronto than I am! It’s too bad you can’t make it — I would love to meet you in person. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence! 🙂

        1. That would be so awesome, but work commitments mean I have to be back in Ottawa on Monday. However, I had no idea you were so close. Maybe I’ll plan a summer trip to the Muskokas…

    1. Aw, thank you for your lovely words! I’m sure I’ll have a great time — hanging out with other writers and editors is always a blast! 🙂

    1. Wow. 27 years as a public speaker — that’s impressive! No sennheiser for me, I’m afraid. Which might actually be a good thing… Thanks for having faith in me! 🙂

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