I really liked the Cambridge dictionary definition better:

ATAVISTIC – atavistic meaning: happening because of a very old habit from a long time ago in human history, not because of a conscious decision or because it is necessary …

That sort of sums up the world we are seeing these days. A world where behaviors and patterns of behavior from the past are overtaking modern civility. Although I’m pretty sure back in Rome, they were pretty civil even then. Our rough incivility and crudeness aren’t atavistic. They are merely crude.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I maintain that much of what is wrong with the world pertains to the way we treat each other. If we are kind, generous, and civil, the world remains a fairly well-oiled machine and it’s possible for everyone to hold their opinions without turning every disagreement into warfare.

These days, people seem to have forgotten the things we learned in elementary school. Like “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and most important, “I’m sorry.” Along with “no bother ” and “I forgive you.”

There’s no point in going on about this. Our world is becoming a crude and ugly place inhabited by people who would not be accepted in any civilized society, now or long in the past.

We aren’t being atavistic. We are simply ill-mannered.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

24 thoughts on “ATAVISTIC DOESN’T MEAN RUDE – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I agree with you that manners and civility would go a long way towards improving things, along with that old bit about treating everyone with respect. I also think their is an atavistic attempt to return/reinstall a patriarchal/tribal model of living, as evidence by all variety of fundamentalisms, religious and otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A lot of civility would be welcome. There are plenty of very polite and respectful patriarchal folks on the planet, and few who are utterly ridiculous and egging others on to bad behavior by their ridiculous models.


        1. Most — but NOT all — people in our generation are at least reasonably civil. Not everyone. Never in the world has everyone been polite, but in most places, people are reasonably civil. What’s going on now, though, is more than incivility. It’s as if a lot of people are somehow asserting that they have the RIGHT to be rude. Like it’s part of the first amendment. As if rudeness were some kind of civil right — maybe amendment 10A, subpart B. Which, by the way, it most definitely is NOT. I dare say our forefathers never imagined they needed to write “please be polite” into our constitution.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought you, English speaking people, were so polite because the same language is so wonderful and nice… Over here, in Spain, we have a beautiful language, but it seems that there is a competition of rudeness and bad manners


  3. I had never heard this word before… though I need to remember it because it’s something I’m very much interested in. I think we tend to forget humans are not all that different from the furry creatures out there… and the very fact that we have and can grasp the concept of civility is a monumental evolutionary achievement. Rules of civilization are learned, and if they’re not taught right (and from an early age… I firmly believe at least 90% of what we are and ever will be comes from our experiences prior to adulthood), it’s hard to blame people for acting like the animals we are. It will take many more millennia of civilization (assuming we make it that long) to really wipe out the atavistic tendencies of man…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Squirrel, I had heard of this word before. But I didn’t know the correct meaning. Glad I never used it in ill-advised conversation or otherwise.



    2. The most atavistic I get is that I assign human reactions to the dogs … and I bet they assign dog motive to we humans. We only think we understand each other. Actually, we live in a constant confusion, but we don’t know it. Most of the time.


  4. Those of us in a certain age bracket, you and me, were taught manners at home and at school. Are they taught anymore or did the go the way of cursive? I will share a wonderful moment I experienced yesterday. I went to a box store, was 5th in line at the checkout in the landscape area, and the customer at the register was older than I am, very, very frail and asked for help in getting a bag of what looked like birdseed out of her cart and into her car. The person working the register tried to call someone, but no one answered. The lady next in line, who was probably about 50, told the lady to just stand by her car and as soon as she paid she’d move it for her. It is so very seldom these days that you actually witness an act of kindness, I was quite moved. It was nice. By the way I love your header shot and the font – that’s nice too. 🙂


    1. It’s more common in small towns. They are really nice about it around here but go into Boston and good luck with that.

      I think they wouldn’t even let someone that frail try to lift the package. All the people at the counters would be helping her. But they also don’t try and run you off the road locally either.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I do agree it seems as if many people have forgotten about courtesy and being thoughtful. I wonder if some parents do teach it to their children. At the charity shop where I volunteer I see a lot of mothers who instruct their children to pick up the toys they played with and “say thank you to the lady”but I also see ones who stand around chatting to each other while the kids are pulling stuff of the shelves and then they just leave and we have to tidy up. As for Facebook I’m pretty sure nobody has heard the golden rule there.


    1. Too many mothers working or too distracted to bother to teach basic manners. If these kids ever need to go to a formal dinner, they are totally dead. They don’t even know what the forks are for, much less the napkin.

      Liked by 2 people

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