August 1, 2015

An Etymology Apology

Categories: Divorce

88689601-small-stone-supported-by-larger-stones-gettyimagesWhen you break a number of eggs it may be a good time to make an omelet. Having said that I might go on to enhance the appeal of such a proposition by adding, Confusius Says: Break bunch of eggs good time to make omelet. Or, I could claim it to be an old French peasant adage that means: A blunder in the hen house can lead to a good breakfast.

For far too many years now I have been making the claim that the word Crisis in Chinese means “Dangerous Opportunity.” It has nice ring to it. I usually went on to say the Chinese word contains two characters that stand for “Dangerous” and “Opportunity.”

It is a little comforting to know that I am one of a very large number of people who have been peddling this bit of folklore as truth, while in fact it is fiction. It is a myth. It doesn’t have any connection in Chinese lexicography. Because Chinese doesn’t really have a word like lexicography, which is derived from the Greek terms lego, to speak and grapho, to write, none of which really helps understand the term better than a simple definition of usage.

It is a pedantic way to try to make something sound better than it is. To polish the apple, so to speak. Until one finds out that he is utterly myth-taken in what he is saying.

I have said, with tongue in cheek, that Winnebago is an old Indian word that means “camper-trailer.” Or, that vegetarian is an old Indian word that means “lousy hunter.’ Few are mislead by this. Most laugh. Some might even think it to be true.

But I have been quoting the Chinese definition of ‘crisis’ fully believing the truth and veracity of what I have been saying, and that is wrong. It simply isn’t true. Here is a link to a scholarly article that shows why it is not true.

It has been a tough week. I have also learned that many of my favorite Native American Indian quotes are not accurate either. The truth is there is a great deal of misinformation floating around. Fortunately, there is also a great deal of good information floating around to help sort out what is true and what is not true.

I am not going to stop suggesting that crisis means dangerous opportunity. Or, better yet, it makes good sense to recognize that crisis may contain an element of danger at the same time that it contains an element of opportunity, and these to possibilities are not mutually exclusive. But I am going to stop trying to pretend that the Chinese have somehow known this thousands of years.

You might say that getting mislead by this term has been something of a crisis, which it is. It has a danger to it, because I have been misrepresenting reality – not a good thing to do. But it is also an opportunity, because I now see that it is unnecessary to attribute an idea that has merit to it to some ancient origin to give it value. It is a proposition that has the strength to stand on its own merits.

Mea Culpa.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at

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