From a guy who ought to know:
This is Alex Heard, coiner of the word “hathos.”
Great Web site. Could you do me a favor at some point and post some additional info about the origins of the word?
It was actually invented on Super Bowl Sunday in 1985. That night I had to write a New Republic article about Frank Sinatra’s cranky attitude toward the media when he was coordinating Reagan’s second inaugural “gala.” He got miffed about a story in the Washington Post and said to a group of reporters, “You read The Post this afternoon? You’re all dead, every one of you. You’re all dead.”
I was trying to think of a word that describes that cringe-y feeling you get when celebs go AWOL. I was at a Super Bowl-watching party with various people, including a guy from Kansas named Scott Richardson who worked as a press aide on the Hill at the time. We started tossing ideas around and eventually came up with hathos, which basically combined hate + pathos to form a word that had a new meaning all its own.
Scott and I have “debated” over the years who actually thought of the word. I think I did, he thinks he did. I was drinking more that day, so … there’s a decent chance he’s right. In any event, he was definitely the co-creator of the word and concept, and he should get credit for this important (?) addition to the language.
People often ask me to recommend movies that will, without fail, deliver hathos, so they can check to see if their hathos gland is working. I always cite these two old classics:
“Funny About Love,” a dramatic comedy with Gene Wilder and Christine Lahti.
“Modern Love.” Robby Benson and Karla DeVito. Benson “auteured” this film … which was a “labor of love.”
If you watch these and don’t feel it, you need to find another hobby …
Keep up the good work!
I’ll try, Alex. And I appreciate the history lesson. I’ve found hathos to be an incredibly inspiring word, easily expandable from the pop-culture realm into anything at all that annoys me. Perhaps that’s not the word’s original intent, but purism is for saps. It’s a word that needs to exist. It needs to thrive, dammit. To breathe.
And to be honest, I must to credit Andrew Sullivan for introducing me to this word via his blog, where he’s using “hathos” to spotlight a series of really, really bad holiday videos. A few glasses of red wine later, The Hathos was born.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write–and for sparking this silly blog.