Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Worldliness

In my job at the admissions office I am learning many things. One is that Melyngoch left an important Mormon word out of her Mormonominary*: worldly. See, the word worldly has always had negative connotations for me. Worldly in opposition to Godly. If people are worldly, it means that they are of the world, meaning they are more concerned with temporal things than with spiritual, that they choose Mammon over God.

It's always jarring to me, then, when applicants write in their personal statements about how worldly they are. "I've become very worldly since traveling to Europe." "My exposure to diverse cultural influences has made me very worldly." "I've grown up since high school and become more worldly."

I understand that we are not concerned with how God-fearing applicants are, I want to say, considering the fact that this is a public university. But still, I don't see the point in drawing attention to your unGodliness. And really, God aside, am I supposed to be impressed that you value your material possessions and the praise of your fellow man above all else?

The problem, of course, is that my definition is not their definition. Worldly doesn't mean to most people what it means to Mormons***; for most people, it's a good thing. Not worldly as opposed to Godly, but worldly as opposed to nationly or stately or townly or homely. Which, as an admissions reader, I do care about.

All I'm saying, really, is that this would all be less confusing for me if Melyngoch had done her job right.



*Well, technically, worldly probably belongs in a Christianominary**, as I believe it is Christianity in general, not just Mormondom, that uses the term in this way.

**And technically it should be in a Christian glossary of some sort, not a nominary, as worldly is not a noun but an adjective. Perhaps a Christianadjectivinary?

***And other Christians, I guess.

4 comments:

Melyngoch said...

Yeah. Sorry about that.

Th. said...

.

Don't apologize! It's an adjective!

Also: I've experienced that same disconnect.

Marcia said...

You're being too kind. This sounds like sloppy word choice to me. They mean that they've become more "cosmopolitan," or "less provincial," or something like that. They do not mean "of, relating to, or devoted to this world and its pursuits rather than to religion or spiritual affairs" ("worldly" according to m-w.com).

They are just illiterate, not irreligious.

Can you tell I just finished up a semester teaching freshman comp? Heh.

Mr. Fob said...

Ah. Perhaps I should have actually checked a dictionary instead of stopping with an informal poll of my coworkers. It looks like most dictionaries do list my meaning first. To be fair to the kids, though, several dictionaries list a secondary meaning along the lines of:

Experienced in human affairs; sophisticated or worldly-wise: “an experienced and worldly man who had been almost everywhere” (Willa Cather). [from the American Heritage Dictionary]