Saturday, April 26, 2008

Devil with the green eyes

As long as it's all about the New Yorker lately up in this piece, here's a passing thought.

A recent NYer article about the tumultuous friendship between New Wave film directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard quotes a letter in which Truffaut calls Godard "both jealous and envious."

I'm no syntactician, but I've always used the words jealous and envious interchangeably, thinking them to mean the same thing. Not so, as the late Truffaut apparently knew.

Envy is pain or resentment caused by someone else's having something one lacks; jealousy is the fear of losing a prized possession, particularly a loved one, to someone else. Psychology Today more fully articulates the difference here; the fallible yet useful Wikipedia points out that envy typically involves two people, while jealousy typically involves three people.

On second thought, I haven't exactly used the words interchangeably. We're all familiar with, e.g., the stereotypical jealous husband, and don't consider his haunted fear of loss to be envy.

What I have done, like many or even most people, is to say "jealous" when I mean "envious." Few of us use the word envious in casual conversation. We say "jealous" instead, rightly or wrongly considering envious to be one definition of the word jealous. Never having felt either emotion, of course, I wouldn't know from personal experience.

Next week, the curveball vs. the slider.


Unknown said...

on a similar note, a smile does not show the teeth whereas a grin does.

Lisa212 said...

"Never having felt either emotion"??

You must have a very fulfilling life?