This is something that I have thought about before, but it only crystallized for me last week. Since I am a student of languages, I tend to ask myself all sorts of questions about why we say things the way we do. One of the very first times I remember reflecting on one such question was when my Mom's friend, an English professor at the university level, asked me why I said something was "awfully good". She wanted to know if I understood why I could put those two seemingly contradictory words together in that way. Was it good, or was it awful? Interestingly enough, the answer to this question is directly pertinent to the one I was wondering about last week.
I was going about my everyday business and found myself suddenly wondering why people use the term "hopeless romantic". I thought that sounded very negative and wondered why anyone would want to refer to themselves in that way. When I had this conversation later with my mother, I realized that I had fundamentally misunderstood this expression my entire life. In anycase, I was thinking that I had never heard anyone call someone a hopeless romantic without it being some sort of criticism. I understood the part about a hopeless romantic being someone who is "in love with love" and not having a very realistic view of love and relationships, seeing everything through rose-coloured glasses. So this is where I thought the "hopeless" part entered into it: that by having unrealistic views or expectations, a person puts themselves in a hopeless situation, that is, sets themselves up for perpetual disappointment since they were wishing for something that was unattainable. My Mom actually burst out laughing when she heard my off-beat definition. It took me awhile to get why it was so funny. Finally, I burst out, "OH, it's because "hopeless" is the intensifier, is that it?" She said yes and I told her that she should've said so much sooner. Mom and I have a common language: grammar. We often have long conversations on various grammar points because I study languages and she is a brilliant English teacher. So all these years, I had thought that "hopeless" was a regular adverb in this expression, only to realize just recently that it is a special adverb called an intensifier. Intensifiers don't have meaning of their own; they simply put emphasis on the word they are associated with. That is why "awfully good" works: it doesn't mean "awful", it means "really really good". In the same way, I learned that a "hopeless romantic" is someone who is very romantic.
Well, this blew my whole theory out of the water. Before I had spoken to my mother, my reflections had continued with my erroneous idea of what a hopeless romantic was. I had then thought to myself, "So why doesn't anyone call themselves a hopeful romantic?" I find myself occasionally in love with love, but I like to think that generally I have a pretty realistic viewpoint on the subject of love. Certainly I think of myself as a positive person in general, so much more hopeful than hopeless. Here I thought I was a genius and that I had created a revolutionary concept. I was inspired. However, there were two problems as I later discovered. Firstly, my Hopeful romantic was based on a misinterpretation of hopeless romantic. Secondly, it was not an original thought. I was very disappointed. The urban dictionary beat me to it: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hopeful%20Romantic.
I don't know how many people know this term or use it. Just because it is on the urban dictionary doesn't mean that it's necessarily popular. I was also dismayed to find that google produced a blog for a Hopeful Romantic. I had been inspired earlier, though, and had had this funny idea about creating a blog based on my concept. I decided to wait a bit and see if I still thought it was a good idea. Finally, I decided to create this blog because I knew mine would be different from the one that already exists and because my idea of a Hopeful romantic still felt original and meaningful to me.
To summarize, a Hopeful romantic is a person who is looking for romance, but is grounded in reality at the same time. They feel hopeful about finding a special person and that romance exists. This is my starting definition and one that I will use throughout the blog when I refer to a Hopeful romantic. I suppose it will evolve a little as I go.
Signed a Hopeful Romantic named Elise