Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What's in an "adventure"?

Adventure (n):  1. an exciting or very unusual experience.   2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.   3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.   4. a commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture.  5. Obsolete . a. peril; danger; risk. b. chance; fortune; luck. --

Everyone has those words that they absolutely hate.  A former co-worker of mine hated the word "eventually" because a boyfriend of hers used to use that word a lot, and it drove her nuts when he wouldn't give a straight answer.  Internet friends of mine hate "irregardless" because, as they would say, "IT'S NOT A F***** WORD!!"  Others hate words for the way they sound to the ear or roll off the tongue.  But for me, one such word is "adventure."

I suppose it's because of children's programming most of all: those shows that promise that every episode is an ADVENTURE filled with excitement and personal growth lessons to take from it, or worse, the word "adventure" is in the name of the program.  Seriously, that's annoying.  As most of the definitions above will tell you, risk or hazard is involved, and for the viewer, there is none, since a happy ending is always guaranteed, and equilibrium is always restored to normal.  In fact, I'd say the only reason that definition number one gets top billing is BECAUSE of children's programming's saturation of the word, bringing that much safer, even milquetoast I would say, definition and connotation of the word to the forefront of our collective consciousness.  Oh sure, the characters on the show don't know they'll be okay at the end, but for the viewer, we always know better.  Like Bob and Bing sing in "Road To Morocco": "we might run into villains but we're not afraid to roam/Because we read the story and we end up safe at home."  That primary definition is the reason I hate that word.  At its absolute best, the word "adventure" by that meaning is a term used by super-annoying "glass is half-full" people to try and put a positive spin on something that anyone with any hint of sanity would look upon with dread, like going to the orthodontist or something.  My own sister once used that word in giving me some life advice, and it came off like a "today is the first day of the rest of your life" pep talk.  Sorry, sis, I know you didn't mean it like that, but grrr..... 

In its truest and oldest form, however, risk is involved.  The word "adventure" should give us pause.  Safety is not guaranteed.  We could lose something, something important (like the true definition of the word "adventure", haha!).  In this sense, those aforementioned optimists would still be using it to put a spin on something dreadful, but with a much more somber tone.  At its absolute best, I feel the word "adventure" should be used in past tense, and sometimes present tense, like what you would say about something risky after it was done.  "Well, that was an adventure."  It'd be kind of like saying, "I wouldn't mind doing that again now I that know you can live through it."

I guess it's not all bad to use that first definition.  I would say my impending move across the continent would qualify as an adventure, because it is unusual, and would definitely be exciting, especially because of who awaits me at the end of it, but that's not the only reason to use the word for this circumstance.  Given how much I'm giving up and how much can go wrong (even though not likely to) on the road, there is both short and long-term risk involved.  But overall, I resent it being used to describe television programming, summer camps, travel holidays, etc.  Yes, it's true to the first definition, but the first definition is annoying too, so knock it off.  The word "adventure" should NEVER be cheerfully or perkily used.

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