Friday, December 27, 2013

Weird Word of the Week: Rumination

Madame L loves this word for its vivid cow imagery. Mostly the word is used nowadays as in this Wikipedia definition: 

"Rumination is defined as the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one's distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential bad events in the future. Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states."

But, as Madame L mentioned, the word in the past was used to refer to the digestive process of cows and other ruminants, as in this Wikipedia definition: 

"The word 'ruminant' comes from the Latin ruminare, which means 'to chew over again'. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through bacterial actions. The process typically requires regurgitation of fermented ingesta (known as cud), and chewing it again..."   The diagram on the left gives a rough idea of how the ruminant's stomach is organized.

Madame L most recently read this word "rumination" in a book called "Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life," which she will review soon. Reading this book, Madame L realized why the word "rumination" is used in psychology to refer to this process of focusing compulsively on problems and bad experiences without working through to helpful solutions. 

On the other hand, the cow does eventually finish with its cud and swallow it. Maybe human ruminants do, too. 

But who cares? The point of this book is how to learn to be optimistic, not to ruminate over what happens to people who can't even summon the courage to do more than ruminate. More, later.

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

I allus thunk rumination was what my gramma did while she was crocheting.

In my (admittedly limited) reading, it had a more benign implication, more like a farm-boy meditating. No lotus pose.